Pants (Shells) Page 1 2 3

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.


ORC Industries

8/26/07 - Note that ORC Industries has ended production of the MCU items seen below and ORC has ceased to offer them. The writeup below is left as a reference.

3/20/05 - PCU Level 5 Soft Shell Trouser- Orc Industries' Soft Shell Trouser is the matching bottom for the Level 5 Soft Shell jacket. When I received it, I noticed that the material was slightly different from the Soft Shell jacket that I have. The weave was very slightly more noticeable, and the material felt a bit sturdier. I understand that all Orc Level 5 garments are now made of this material - 100% Epic Glacier (5.8oz fabric), by Nextec®. The properties remain the same as the Jacket - water resistant, wind proof, and lightweight.
I'd say that the overall fit and sizing of the Trousers are similar to BDU pants - they'll fit over my Level 2 Pants comfortably. I've short legs (usually a medium-short pant BDU), so they look a bit long on me in the photos. Starting at the top, the waist is elasticized and has a snap front. The 2-way zipper fly can be opened from the top or bottom. There are 7 2"-wide belt loops. On the inside are suspender-ready loops. At the rear is a flap that folds out - I've been told this is the rear attachment for suspenders, but a friend also mentioned that his newer (Gen 2) Level 5 Soft Shell jacket has some straps with bar sliders on the ends at the back that he couldn't figure out what they were for. From his description, it seems that they connect to this flap at the rear of the Trouser. I don't know for sure, as I don't have the Gen 2 jacket, but it's just an educated guess. On the sides are velcro tab waist adjusters. If I were to add anything, it'd be a double seat, just for increased wear resistance.
Moving on down, are two deep front slash pockets, with mesh bottoms. At the sides, on each hip, are 10" water-resistant sealed zippers, which separate and open at the top. Opening them fully makes the trousers easier to don and doff, or they enable pass-through access to BDU pockets if worn over BDU pants. They could also be used for ventilation. Right below the upper side zipper is a BDU-style, pleated cargo pocket on each side, with velcro-secured flap. 3 grommets at the bottom of the pockets allow for drainage.
The double-layered knee is articulated - pre-bent and shaped to allow the knee to bend freely. 18" lower side zippers allow the pant leg to be opened from the bottom of the cargo pocket down, and will slip over combat boots. The bottom of the Trouser has a velcro tab adjustment and is elasticized. On the inside are two stirrup loops. A black 1000D cordura panel on the inside bottom of each leg protects them from abrasion (boot heels or sharp crampons).
These Trousers are very comfortable to wear, similar to lightweight nylon workout pants or lightweight BDU pants.

3/23/05 - Wore the Level 5 pant on a short hike in the evening. Temperature was 62° and went down to the mid-50's, with a strong breeze. Pants were very comfortable, and didn't feel too cold (kept the wind out completely) and not too hot when I had worked up a sweat.
3/11/06 - Wore the Level 5 pant over my Zensah tactical tights in 35°F weather and they kept me very comfortable. I've been very impressed with their performance in snow and damp weather.

Level 5 Soft Shell trouser

Side and bottom zippers, side cargo pockets

Cordura panels and articulated knee

Detail of trouser waist

Level 5 Suit

Level 5 pants with TAD soft shell

PCU Level 6 Wet Weather Jacket and Trouser - The PCU Level 6 Wet Weather suit is completely waterproof (and windproof, of course). The 'hard shell' jacket and trouser are made of coated nylon, called 'Travco', which is a non-breathable material. Hard shells serve a purpose for static duty in pouring rain like guardposts, checkpoints, or laying in an OP overnight. The Alpha-green colour is darker in shade than the L4 or L5 garments. The jacket is slightly oversized to fit over garments, as it's intended to be used as outerwear only, and in conjunction with BDUs etc. It shares the same shaped shoulders and elbows for freedom of movement and range of motion without binding. All seams are taped and waterproof. The full length front zipper has a chin guard at the top for comfort, and all zippers are of the sealed, water-resistant type. On each side of the chest is a vertical, 14" zippered opening for access to the undergarments or for venting. The hood has shock cord adjustment with two cord-locks at the front. Orc describes the hood as being oversized, and it fits perfectly over a hat or cap, but it'd be too tight to fit over a helmet, in my experience. The sleeves have elasticized cuffs with velcro tab adjustments, just like the L4 and L5 jackets. The bottom of the jacket can be tightened with the dual cord locks and shock cord

Level 6 Jacket

Hood up

Rear view

Details of collar and hood

Details of taped seams in the inside

The Level 6 Wet Weather Trouser is of a simple, straightforward design. The elasticized waistband with snap closure has 7 belt loops on the outside and the same rear flap and front suspender loops as the Level 5 trouser shown above. The fly has a two-way zipper which can be opened from the top or bottom. The knees are articulated (pre-shaped) for freedom of movement. The legs can be opened via the 30" water-resistant side zippers, for ease of donning over combat boots. The leg bottoms are elasticized and have velcro tab adjusters.

Level 6 Trouser

Side zipper

As mentioned above, the Level 6 material is 100% water proof and non-breathable; no moisture is getting through this fabric - in nor out. This puts an upper limit on the temperature that this suit can be used in, as perspiration will not be able to escape unless vented out. Personally, I'd estimate the comfort level to be 65° and below, else it can get hot. I'd also recommend wearing a wicking layer like Level 1 next to the skin, when wearing the Wet Weather suit. I don't think I'd recommend it for strenuous activities where you sweat a lot. If you're not running around and really want to keep dry in the heaviest rain which will wet through soft shells or wet out your Goretex, that's what this suit is for.

3/22/05 - Wore the Level 6 suit out in medium rain for about half an hour and as expected, I was bone dry when I got back in. Temp was 61° I wasn't exerting myself so I didn't work up a sweat. I only wore a Level 1 pant and long sleeved T underneath and felt slightly chilly, so I was dry inside as well.



ARC'TERYX LEAF (Law Enforcement and Armed Forces) Products

Note that the product line is subject to change - some of the items below may be discontinued or changed from the time the review is written.

4/23/05 - Vancouver, BC, Canada-based Arc'Teryx is a well-known name in the outdoor world, producing the latest, high-end outdoor clothing, gear and accessories. Up till only a few years ago, military clothing technology has usually been a step behind what's been available on the civilian market. It makes sense that leading manufacturers of 'technical' outdoor clothing are entering the military market but it's more complicated than just producing civilian clothing in 'military' colours. The Arc'Teryx LEAF (Law Enforcement and Armed Forces) Purchase Program makes special versions of their product line available to military and LE professionals.
Side note: Arc'Teryx's logo is the fossil (actually, the Berlin Specimen found in 1877) of the Archaeopteryx, the prehistoric animal that looked like a bird, yet also had some of the features of a dinosaur/reptile. There's controversy over whether Archaeopteryx was the first bird, a reptile, or a transitional species, but in general, Archaeopteryx is viewed as a 'first of its kind' and a symbol of evolution. A good choice, symbolizing one of their mottos - 'Evolution in action'.


Bravo Pant - The Bravo Pant shown here in 'Clay' colour is a surprisingly comfortable garment. The Clay colour is a light/medium shade of gray, and the pant also comes in black and crocodile (close to khaki - see the Alpha jacket below). Visit Arc'Teryx's web page for a full description. Meant to be worn alone in warm to temperate climates, or combined with a base layer in colder conditions, the Bravo pants are constructed of Tweave® Durastretch®, a nylon/Lycra® blend. I'm always skeptical when something is advertised as 'water resistant and breathable', as I'm usually prepared to feel a bit stifled in such clothing and heat up eventually. Not so with the Bravo pants. Contrary to what I was expecting, they were actually more comfortable than my ripstop cotton BDU pants, or 5.11 pants for daily wear. They didn't immediately warm up (as most water-resistant pants do) when I first put them on, and stayed cool and airy. The fabric has a slightly stretchy feel to it, and conveys a sense of durability while being lightweight, if that makes sense. They're thick enough to feel hard-wearing, but without the weight that you'd expect. One of the main factors was the four-way stretch properties of the Tweave®. The Bravo pants stretch with my movements, and don't bind the way cotton does. It's a 'slicker' material with a pleasing texture.

I did my unscientific 'wet test', by pouring water on the pants and allowing it to pool (not run off). As with most water-resistant materials, the water beaded up immediately. I used my finger to work the water into the fabric. It wouldn't take for quite a while, and I had to rub and work it in before it penetrated. I wasn't able to work it all the way through, though. The fabric isn't completely wind-proof as I'm able to feel air pass through when I blow hard through it, which accounts for its breathability, but it IS wind resistant due to the tight weave of the fabric. Note that the DWR (water repellant treatment) will have to be 'renewed' after some time, just like Goretex, with a spray-on or wash-in treatment .
The Bravo pants have the most comfortable waist of any I've owned, including BDUs, Levi's, tactical pants. Lined with soft Chamois, there's no seam or elastic around the waist, just a simple built-in web belt. No belt loops either. The 1" wide web belt is fully enclosed by the waist band, with a low profile plastic buckle in the front. The loose end of the belt can be tucked into the oepning on the waist band. The pants close via a snap-button and front zipper fly. The crotch is gusseted (diamond panel), like climbing pants. Both the seat and knees are articulated for freedom of movement.

Front, side and rear views of the Bravo pant

Side pockets

Articulated knees and seat

Detail of trouser waist

Close up of pockets

A streamlined design, there's not much there to snag. As with many of Arc'Teryx's products, the pockets are very low profile. The side slash mesh pockets have zipper closures that are laminated (not sewn) to the fabric. You can hardly tell that the pleated thigh cargo pockets are there. The flap has a velcro patch closure, and is also self-closing due to the sides being sewn down. The pockets lay flat against the thigh, and can expand deceptively because of the pleat and the stretch fabric. This also seems to prevent items inside the pocket from moving around as much as they would in a larger, non-elastic pocket.
The bottom hem is laminated and has a small, reinforced hole on the inside, apparently for addition of a drawstring if needed. Another feature that Arc'Teryx mentions that I immediately noticed when I first got the pants is the high stitch count. All the seams are very small, tight and neat, giving the impression of attention to detail in the manufacturing process. A great alternative to conventional tactical pants for everyday wear when that extra protection against the elements isn't noticed until you need it.

I went on a week-long trip, bringing only the Bravo Pants and wearing them for the duration of the trip. Temperatures ranged from about 55° to 84° and it was only in the 80's did I start to feel warm in the pants (I was wearing a T-shirt and was sweating, but didn't have a pair of shorts). I'd have been hotter in Levi's. I found the pants very breathable, airy, and extremely comfortable. I once spilled some sauce on them, which dried, but later on in the hotel room I used some soap and water to wash the dried sauce off, soaking the immediate area, then used a towel to squeeze out any excess water. The spot was bone dry in less than half an hour - ready to be worn again. The fabric doesn't soak up water like cotton does, which is why it dried so quickly. Even after a week of constant wear without washing, they don't feel 'grimy' at all like my Levi's would have. Next time I'm on travel, this is the only pant I'm bringing along. I really can't say enough good things about the Bravo pant.


12/3/06 - Alpha Pant - This is the matching pant to the Alpha Jacket shown above, also in crocodile. The Alpha Pant is constructed of the same MI270 Gore-Tex® XCR® 3 layer fabric as the jacket. Construction features are the same - high stitch count of 14-16 stitches per inch, lamination technology, WaterTight™ Zippers and Zipper Garages™ which ensure a leak free seal with reduced bulk and fewer seams.

Shown below is the Medium size - my measurements are at the top of this page for reference. Like the Alpha Jacket, the Alpha Pant is patterned to allow maximum range of motion. It accomplishes this with a gusseted crotch and articulated knees. Since the Gore-Tex XCR doesn't stretch, extra material has been provided in the seat and knees to allow bending and squatting without being restrictive. That's the reason for the slightly looser looking seat and knees. There are full-length two-way watertight zippers on each side so the pants can be donned without taking your boots off. Opening the zipper from the top provides some ventilation. The main zipper pulls can be used with gloves.

Front and rear views

Front closeup

Side pocket

The top of the side zippers are proteced in Arc'teryx's molded Zipper garage. The Alpha Pants have an elastic waist and an adjustable 1" web belt with low profile plastic buckle, which I find very comfortable. There are four suspender loops on the inside of the waist band. Everything that might potentially transfer moisture to the inside is sealed with die cut seam tape - all seams and even the embroidered logo on the front and side pocket. The fly has a two-way watertight zipper.

Zipper garage

Waist detail

Inside waist detail

There are two side thigh pockets accessed by water proof zippers, about 7" x 6" square. They're flat when empty, but have a hidden pleat which lets them expand. I've mentioned this before, but Arc'Teryx has a knack for designing seemingly low profile pockets carry more than you'd think. And not even look bulky when they're full. On each instep is a patch of Schoeller® Keprotec®, which is 75% Nylon 25% Kevlar fabric that is extremely abrasion resistant. This patch protects the instep from cuts and abrasion from boots and crampons. The cuffs have adjustable shock cord and a snap closure to reinforce the bottom of the zipper. The end of the shock cord is pulled before the side zipper is closed. It stays inside the pant leg, out of the way of water or dirt. The shock cord channel is laminated to the inside of the pant leg. Wherever possible, Arc'teryx has used lamination technology to replace sewing, resulting in a leaner, more functional garment with less holes in the fabric.

Side pocket

Crampon protector

Inside pant cuff

with Alpha jacket

Like the Alpha Jacket, the Pant is lightweight and very packable for a Gore-Tex garment. I much prefer the lighter weight Gore-Tex XCR to the heavier stuff. It's more comfortable and not as hot or bulky. I've found it advisable to always wear a base layer under Gore-Tex outer clothing, even if it's a very thin one. Unless you're standing still, you're going to sweat during exertion, oftentimes faster than it can evaporate or get transferred out of the garment. Wearing a very thin base layer like a Zensah tight or PCU L1 Pant underneath prevents that clammy feeling inside, and helps keep the skin dry and more comfortable.



Arc'Teryx LEAF Alpha Bib

2/27/10 - The Alpha Bib from Arc'Teryx LEAF is the bib version of the Alpha Pant reviewed previously. Built for harsh winter conditions or wet weather, the Alpha Bib provides maximum moisture protection with enhanced mobility and breathability. Extending to just below the chest, the low-cut Alpha Bib shields against blowing snow or rain, and keeps the kidneys warm. It features articulated shaping for unrestricted movement, watertight cargo pockets, and full length side zippers for venting and ease of donning.

Material - The Alpha Bib is made from the same MI270 Gore-Tex® XCR® (Extended Comfort Range) fabric as the Alpha Jacket, which is a three-layer laminate engineered to excel in extended/extreme conditions while being tough, breathable, waterproof and wind proof. Gore-Tex XCR has 25% less resistance to moisture vapour transmission than Classic Gore-Tex which means that you stay drier inside. The fabric has a DWR finish for water repellency. Note that the DWR (water repellant treatment) will have to be 'renewed' after some time, with a spray-on or wash-in treatment .

Here's a summary of the features on the Alpha Bib, size medium shown:

  • High, softshell fabric back - A Tweave Durastretch softshell back panel maximizes breathability in the lower back while keeping the kidneys warm.
  • Adjustable suspenders - Very low profile suspenders made of black 3/4" wide elastic are sewn into the bib. They have a Y-configuration.
  • Low volume waist and belt construction - The waist is elasticized in the rear and features a low profile adjustable webbing waist belt with plastic buckle. The low volume construction minimizes bulk and prevents chafing.

Bib front

  • Two-way fly - The two-way fly has two different cord pulls; the top one has a rubber shrink-wrap sleeve on it for tactile differentiation between the two pulls. The bottom can be unzipped opened without unzipping the top.
  • Articulated knees and seat - The knees and seat are articulated for unrestricted movement.
  • WaterTight™ external zippers - All external zippers are WaterTight™ with corded zippers pulls for easier grabbing and less noise.
  • Gusseted crotch
  • Bellowed thigh pockets - There are two large (10" tall x 8" wide) cargo pockets with bellows at the rear for expansion, located on the front of each thigh. The entrance is covered by a velcro-secured flap, and then closed with a sealed zipper.
  • Moulded zipper garages.

Inside front of bib

Zipped up

Waist rear

Thigh cargo pocket

Pocket flap
  • Full length side zips - Covered, full length side zips for ease of donning over boots, and allow for quick venting. The zipper opens from the top and the bottom. The top of the zipper is protected by the molded zipper garages.
  • Reinforced insteps - Schoeller® Keprotec™ instep patches provide superior protection against damage by boots, crampons and ski edges. Keprotec is 75% nylon 25% kevlar and is extremely abrasion resistant.
  • Adjustable pant cuff- The bottom of the pant cuff is adjustable via the elastic drawcord and cord lock. The end of the shock cord has a plastic pull on it, and extends up the inside of the calf in a laminated sleeve so the end doesn't stick out the bottom. Access to the drawcord end does require opening up the side zipper partway. There is also a tab with snap, which holds the bottom of the cuffs together even if the zipper is open all the way.
  • Stirrup grommets - There is a small grommet on each side of the cuff for using 550 cord as stirrups, to prevent the cuff from riding up the leg. I'd recommend routing 550 cord under your boots when using the bib in deep snow.
  • Tiny GORE seam tape - Narrower (3/16" and 1/2") GORE seam tape is used throughout for weight and bulk savings.
  • Weight 1 lb 8.9 oz

Side zippers

Bottom cuffs

Inside the cuffs

With Alpha Lt

Sizing, fit etc - The Alpha Bib fits pretty much the same as the Alpha Pant, except that it's much more 'forgiving' around the waist since it doesn't have to be snug to prevent it from slipping down. Good for us not-so-young fellows that are letting ourselves go around the midriff. The Gore-Tex XCR isn't stretchy, so a bit more room is provided in the right places to allow for freedom of movement, like the seat and articulated knees. Just like the Alpha Pant, I find the fit very comfortable and unrestrictive. I have a short inseam, so the legs are a bit long for me, but since the cuffs are elasticized, it doesn't matter.

General notes and observations - Quality and construction is typical Arc'Teryx; outstanding. Same tiny stitches as the other Alpha garments. The only caveat I see with the Bib is when nature calls. The Bib isn't convenient to drop if you've got to poop. If a full crotch zip can be added without compromising the durability and integrity of the crotch/seat, that'd be nice to have. However, I was told that the users of this garment didn't request one, and didn't want the possibility of a crotch zipper failing. Arc'Teryx does have bibs on the commercial side with full crotch zips.

I didn't get the chance to go up into the snow this season, but did wear the Alpha Bib out in the wet (which we got a lot of this season). Not surprisingly, I was perfectly dry in the rain (I wore it with the Alpha LT jacket). The Bib does provide an extra measure of warmth around the mid-section, especially when there's a cold wind blowing. The design also eliminates the chances of it slipping down when crawling, and also helps keep the front of the body dry in the prone position if the jacket happens to ride up a bit. Based on my experience with the Alpha Pant on cold-weather hikes, the side zips really work well when exerting in cold weather, and you need to cool down quickly. Like the Alpha Pant, I find the Alpha Bib most comfortable with a very thin base layer (a pair of tights) as it keeps my skin drier if it becomes clammy inside from too much sweat, combined with a cold shell. If you're going to be spending time in the snow or wet, and some of that time laying on the ground, then you might appreciate the extra protection afforded by Alpha Bib.







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