High Performance/Tactical Clothing - Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4
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.


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.


Front details


Side cargo pocket

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.
All pockets are lined/constructed of the same fabric used in the rest of the pant - no lightweight material is used.

Taped button fly and front welt pockets

Rear pocket

Knife clip reinforcement

Side cargo pocket details

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.

Close up

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:

  • Made in the USA at a mil-spec facility.
  • 2" Waist increments - offered in 2" waist increments for a better fit (instead of small, medium, large etc). Note that TAD's pant waists are cut on the looser side, so that a size 32" will fit up to a 33". This done in case people are carrying weapons inside the waistband.
  • Canadian-style slotted military buttons - These are used for the waist and rear pockets.
  • Zipper fly - A Delrin-tooth YKK zipper fly for convenient donning/doffing and a military-style taped tan button waist closure.
  • Seven 2.5" belt loops fit rigger belts (shown here with a Liger gun belt).
  • Two ITW D-ring keepers on front belt loops - you can dummy cord front pocket items there or clip keys to them.
  • Double reinforced seat and diamond shaped gusseted crotch as found in rock climbing pants for free range of motion.
  • Double reinforced knees with tailored articulated darts - these are the same as on the Legionnaires; they don't have a compartment for knee pads.
  • All pockets lined with long lasting self fabric instead of lighter material
  • Two front welt pockets - probably my most used pockets for sunglass case and cell phone. They're 6" deep and 4.5" wide with a 3.5" opening.
  • Two side hand pockets with the original TAD pocket clip reinforcements - there's also a smaller 3" x 3" pocket inside the right pocket. Shown below with a flashlight in the pocket instead of a knife.
  • Two rear welt pockets - these roomy 7" x 7" pockets have a lower profile, neater opening than the Force 10s with flap closures. They have a single Canadian slotted button closure.
  • Discrete hideaway interior back pocket for passports, bail out cash etc - this is a 6" deep x 7" wide internal pocket behind the right rear welt pocket. Of course, it can only be accessed by reaching inside the waistband.
  • Fit - action fit, straight leg, mid rise (less full than the cargo styles).
  • 35 bartacked reinforcements throughout - all points of stress are mini-bartacked.

Front details


Interior hideaway back pocket

Pocket clip reinforcements

Reinforced knees

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.

Eco-Speed T- The Eco-Speed 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.
The distinguishing feature of the Eco-Speed are the white mesh panels which separate the front and back halves of the shirt. The panels are about 7" wide on the sides of the medium shirt and extend from under the sleeves (where they're slightly narrower) all the way down the sides to the bottom. Because of the looser fit of the shirt torso, it moves around more, and air can be felt passing through the mesh. I wore it in dry heat (98°) and felt quite comfortable in it. Switched to a cotton T and it felt less 'airy' and I eventually got sweaty on my lower back. Switched back and could notice a definite difference between the two, and the sweaty spot dried out.
My only suggestion for improvement matches a comment from another customer in the catalog - go with an iron-on label. I found the label a bit scratchy and like I do with all my other Tees, I cut it off.

Front view

Rear view

Side mesh panels

Eco-Mesh Shirt - 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 the Eco-Mesh 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.
For ventilation, the Eco-Mesh Shirt is has full-length, 3"-wide mesh panels running from shirt sleeve cuff to bottom. On the back of a shirt is a hidden mesh vented yoke (see inside-out pic below).
Wearing the Eco-Mesh Shirt is slightly warmer than wearing a T-shirt, but it provides protection that a short sleeved shirt won't (UPF 30) and shields your skin from the direct sunlight. It'll keep the vulnerable forearms from sunburn better than sun screen (which wears off), and will also provide a level of protection against insects and scratches when moving through brush. It's definitely cooler, lighter and better ventilated than any other long-sleeve shirt I've worn.

Eco-Mesh shirt

Rear view showing ventilated yoke

Collar and left chest pocket

Mesh panel

Shirt inside-out to show mesh yoke

Rolled-up size

Weather Pants - 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.
Around the waistband is a 1" black web belt. The catalog said that it was supposed to be removable and the belt loops 1-3/4", but mine weren't - the belt loops were 1-1/4". I callled RailRiders and they said that the 30" inseam pants still have the 1-1/4" belt loops (until inventory runs out), while the regular inseam Weather Pants have the 1-3/4" belt loops. I found the sewn-in label on the waistband, being new, a wee bit scratchy, so I removed it. I'm a big fan of iron-on or printed labels now that I've had garments with them.
The two front pockets are deeper than normal - a feature I definitely appreciate after losing itmes out of shallow pockets. The rear pocket on the right rear is roomy, and the zipper closure keep the contents secure.
The additional level of abrasion resistance comes from the cordura-like Rail-Tex fabric seat and knee patches. The entire seat of the pants are covered in the cordura-like fabric, down past the butt. The knee patches are generous - they extend halfway down the shin. The cuffs have elastic and a velcro tab adjustment. The Weather Pants are the only ones offered with a 30" inseam, for people cursed with shorter legs like me - the main reason for my choosing them. Some of the other pants made by RailRiders have hemmable bottoms, so it's not the only choice for the vertically challenged.
The Weather Pants are very comfortable and light, as to be expected. My waist fell within the 'Small' size (at the high end, though), so that's what I got. I normally wear mediums, but I decided to give the smalls a try. They fit well for normal, sedate wear, but were slightly tight when I started to need the range of motion. After tooling around a bit in the smalls, I decided to send them back in exchange them for mediums, and they're the proper fit now. So, when you're ordering them, go with the next size up if you're close to the high side of the waist range. The rugged fabric on the knees and seat is light weight enough so those areas don't seem to get too much warmer than the rest of the pants (they're still cooler than a pair of jeans). They fold/roll up into a compact size, so they're a logical choice for traveling light. For cooler temperatures, they can be worn over a wicking base layer like the SOF-PCU Level 1 pant, so you don't have to bring light and heavy pairs of pants.

Front view


Details of front/belt and rear pocket

Cuff details

Rolled-up size

On the range




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.
When I first got the Eco-Mesh pants, I wondered how much of a difference the vents would make when it was hot outside. I left one side open and the other zipped up in hot summer weather. No, it wasn't like having a blast of air conditioning as the ambient temperature was high, but the vents DID allow air to enter and circulate around my leg, keeping it less sweaty than the other one, and noticeably more comfortable. The pants are also so light weight that it's as close to wearing shorts as pants can get. I ended up wearing the Eco-Mesh pants almost daily during the hottest days of summer; leaving my cotton slacks and jeans to collect cobwebs in the closet.
This past weekend, as the weather grew cooler and summer ended, I wore the pants on a hike (same one as described in my Hanwag boots writeup). Temperature was in the mid 50's at the bottom and dropped about 10° at the top of the mountain. Even when the ambient temperature is low, I'm going to sweat under exertion. Most of the way up the mountain, I had the vents completely open. I was sweating all the way during the climb up. As the cold winds picked up, NOW it felt like a blast of air conditioning hitting my legs! Again I tried my experiment by leaving one vent open and closing the other, and I found that the unvented leg got a bit clammy, the sweat having no place to vent. Despite the cool air and wind, I was still sweating all over. The vented leg stayed dry and cool as the vent allowed the wind to dry it off. Opening up the vents also expands the circumference of the pants legs, adding extra space that adds range of motion.
At the top, the wind was very strong and it was time to zip up the vents, which stayed zipped up all the way down. Surprisingly versatile pants, as they're wind-resistant was well.

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.
Another feature that sets these apart is the mesh-backed 5" zipper on each side of the legs. Opening the zipper widens the bottom opening of the shorts for added range of motion and mobility, especially when climbing. The shorts come with a non-removable 1" wide web belt.

Zipped open when ventilation is needed...

...and closed when it's cold and windy

Sawtooth shorts

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:

  • Belt loops
  • Waist band
  • Entire seat
  • Rear pocket flaps
  • Front pocket openings and knife clip reinforcements
  • Entire side cargo pockets and flaps
  • Bottom cuff rear reinforcement

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.

VersaTac-Lite with SOE riggers belt


Lite - pocket flaps

VersaTac-Mid with Liger belt


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.


Side elastic, belt loops

Crotch gusset

Knife clip reinforcement

Rear pockets

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).

Side cargo pocket

Internal pocket in side cargo

Front/side zipper access to cargo pocket

Seated access to cargo pocket

At the range

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.
After I had shortened both pairs, I weighed them. The Lite weighed 1 lb 1 oz, and the Mid 1 lb 10 oz. That's more than a half pound difference between the two. The Mid 'Yukon Canvas' fabric is a bit quieter with less nylon 'swish' (not that there's much in the first place). I think the Rail-Tex nylon will be more abrasion resistant in rocky environments. The Mid fabric makes the pant look a bit 'dressier' than the Lite. The Lite pants will probably dry faster overall when wet. Both fabrics are very comfortable to wear. I used the Lites recently at the range in hot summer weather and they performed very well.

Here's how I'd decide between the two.
Lite - if you're looking more for a lighter-weight, BDU-type pant for hiking, outdoor use in a rocky or abrasive environment, tactical shooting classes (less bulk under knee pads) where you're in and out of the dirt, or anticipate getting wet. More of a 'military' application.
Mid - if you prefer a slightly dressier look, cooler weather use, more of a urban, govt-agency, tactical pant than BDU.
Note that this is just my personal opinion in an attempt to help some people decide between the two. I'm not saying that either is any better or worse than the other under the same conditions - they're both excellent choices.


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.

Verstac Mid short with Liger belt

Deep front pockets

Features - The main features of the Versatac Mid shorts are:

  • 10-inch inseam
  • Seven belt loops - The belt loops accommodate 2" belts and are wider than the ones on my Versatac pants. I don't know if these were changed on later versions, but they're 1" wide instead of 3/4" wide. They're also heavily bartacked.
  • Reinforced seat and front pocket openings - the seat is reinforced with another layer of fabri, as well as the entrances to the side slash pockets.
  • Gusseted crotch - comfortable and strong
  • Knife clip reinforcements - an extra layer of fabric is added on the outside of the side slash pockets for knife clips.
  • Side slash/handwarmer pockets - these are deeper than normal, a feature some may like, and some may not. They're about 10" deep from the bottom of the opening (where the knife clip reinforcement is), to the bottom. While items inside are kept more secure, they're also lower down on the thigh (instead of at the crease) and move when the thigh moves. The pockets are made of the same fabric as the rest of the shorts.
  • Side cargo pockets - To adapt these for shorts, the side cargo pockets are located about 2" higher than on the pants, and are about 1" shorter. Like the pants, the side cargo pockets are built on an extra piece of fabric - a platform - not just sewn directly to the 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 a flap closure with two slotted buttons and velcro. The idea is to use the buttons when extra security is needed. I find 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. The pocket is bellowed for bulkier items, but bartacked at the front bottom corner for a lower profile. There is also front/side vertical zipper access, located at the front of the pocket. This allows quick access when seated, kneeling or driving a vehicle. By putting my cell in one of the cargo pockets, it's easily accessible when seated. As with the pants, 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 with elastic retention at the top.

Front details

Side handwarmer pocket

Side cargo pocket

Internal pocket with G19 mag

Cell phone slot pocket
  • Cell phone pockets - A cell phone slot pocket has been added on each side, behind the side cargo pockets with the opening at the top. They're shallow enough (5" deep) to slip a cell phone in, but be aware that if you run, the contents aren't secured inside. I've illustrated one with a 30-round M4 mag to show how deep it is.
  • Two back pockets - instead of the flap pockets on the pants, the shorts have a non-flapped pocket in the rear, with a small velcro patch to close it. The pocket is about 6" deep and 7" wide.
  • Rigid slotted buttons - the waist button and side cargo pocket buttons are all hard plastic Canadian military-style, and taped. I found these to be a great improvement over the rubbery buttons on the first Versatac pants.
  • Even waist sizes from 32" to 42". These is no elastic on the sides.

Cell phone pocket with 30-rnd mag for illustration

Vertical zipper on side pocket

Rear pocket

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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