‘Cryefire’ AOR1

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This Crye Precision/DRIFIRE set right here is what I’d call the current pinnacle of the combat uniform concept for deployed personnel in arid environments. This is what every man and woman who puts on a uniform should be putting on in places like Afghanistan if they’re going outside the wire and it’s a bloody shame that isn’t the reality.

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While I’ve long been a critic of the cut of the G3 combat shirt, that is very much the nit picking side of me. The Arc’teryx Assault Shirt FR is roughly level pegging overall in that is has arm pit mesh, a far more anatomical shape to the sleeves and better pockets (just like Crye G4 funnily enough), however the collar design is bonkers and I frankly despise it.

From an individual/commercial standpoint it’ll be far easier to buy the Arc and it most likely will be a lot cheaper too, but then most people who get FR uniforms didn’t buy them.

What I really want to do some day is get some ripped up old FR clothing from a few different key players like Drifire, Arc and Massif and take a blow torch to it all for comparison testing; or devise a more explosive test if I can (though I doubt UK law will be very permissive in that area).

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Crye Compatible Patagonia

There are guys out there who’re very knowledgeable when it comes to which SF guys (especially SEALs) used what gear and when. I am not that guy. Some folks might well get the impression in the coming months that I’m building some kind of NSW kit, but personally I’ve no specific interest in them or what they do. I just like to have the best quality kit that’s available in a combat cut and it happens that not only do NSW get a lot of that made for them, they also have the AOR patterns that haven’t been used by many other folks.

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Back in the Gen 2/AC days at Crye (maybe early G3), Patagonia were making these early iterations of their Level 9 combat cut pant in both AORs. They started off with a layout much more akin to Crye and taking the Crye pads, before shaking things up, deleting a few things and moving to their own pad system with the 4-hole pattern. I’m always more a fan of the CP system, though the latest version of the Patagonia pads with the locking connections instead of the press studs are at a point that even picky old me actually doesn’t mind them.

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I know there were at least 2 variants of this model; earlier with the solid colours stretch as seen here then later with pattern-matched stretch. Not sure whether they perhaps did something even earlier with solid colour loop fields as well, but either way this particular set is pretty darn old in modern gear terms.

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As you’ll note there’s a stretch panel at the back of the waist, but none around the knees or in the groin; funnily enough the AOR2 versions of these I owned some time ago also had the groin ripped apart where a guy had clearly gone down fast to a squat/knee. The butt pockets are gone vs CP as well, though on this model the other 8 are still present. Closure on small pockets is just velcro, with buttons added for the main cargos. One big plus over Crye is the use of slotted buttons with edging tape holding them. Far superior to the 4 hole direct-sew type Crye put on the NC/UKSF Custom cut and will, astoundingly, be continuing to mount on the upcoming G4 hot weather items.

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The Rarer Kryptek

I’m confident in saying this isn’t something you’ll see every day.

The vast majority of the NYCO that’s ever been physically printed in Kryptek Outdoor Group patterns has been in Mandrake, Highlander and Typhon. With perhaps the possible exception of some tiny sample production that never leaked outside the company, the majority of their patterns have never been printed on cotton blend fabrics.

PLATATAC retailed their Tac Dax MkII sets in the three aforementioned colours for a good couple of years and Haley Strategic Partnerssubsequently also carried them for a time. They remain the all around best quality combat cut apparel to have ever been manufactured in Kryptek colourways and the fact the patterns had a big spike in popularity within the ‘tactical’ community, which has since long faded (but picked up in the hunting sphere), means that such uniforms might well never appear commercially again.

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For one reason or another, Nomad, the all-out arid colourway from Kryptek, was only ever printed in comparatively limited quantities. Even companies like OPS and Vertx that went big in to making Kryptek pattern apparel only manufactured small amounts of clothing in Nomad. The set I have here was only sold off by Platatac quite some time after they stopped production on the MkII uniform. Presumably in some sort of warehouse clearance, since they had a lot of their legacy product line on sale at the time and a fair few interesting prototypes also rose to the surface.

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Incidentally if anyone ever sees either part of the MkII set in Typhon or the shirt in Mandrake for sale (Med-Reg, in good nick) you’d be doing me a solid if you gave me a shout and I’d certainly owe you one.

Best VALUE Camo Trousers

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There aren’t that many products that I will very strongly recommend with a genuine emphasis, but these Leo Köhler GmbH & Co. KG Explorer model trousers are one of them. You can check my video review of these here going through what features there are to go through:


It’s a very simple cut and the price at Flecktarn.co.uk has gone up a fiver since the review, but if you want something that’s a true step up in material quality compared to issued MTP (and most issued European camo) with a wider range of patterns available, while also not spending more than 50 quid, these are the trousers to buy. Some pretty cool and popular patterns are available too for you folks in the UK, including MC Tropic and Black and both the 2 popular Pencott patterns:


ASMC.de do also carry them but for some reason are asking 70 euros, which is a fair hike over £50 since the exchange rate is close to one to one at the time of writing.

In the UK however, I’ve looked through everything UK Tac and Tac-Kit have in stock trouser wise; the Explorers provide the best all around value by comparison. You can certainly get better if you spend quite a lot more money and you can get worse for spending the same, or even slightly more money in some cases (looking at you LBX), but the best quality for the money is here. I think they’d be a far better option if they cost, say, £55 and you could insert a knee pad with perhaps some ankle adjustments or padding in the waistband, but still an outstanding option in the literal sense even in the current configuration.

Head of Human, Body of a Lion

Here’s a creature from ancient Greek myths that died out a long time ago – the Sphinx. Though this version from from Arc’teryx LEAF.

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For those who’ve been cutting around long enough you may remember that LEAF used to offer a full line of inclement weather clothing based on the cut of the Talos NYCO gear and each set was named after creatures from the Greek legends. There was the Sphinx, Minotaur, Gryphon, possibly Centaur though I’m not certain and probably more I’m not remembering. But they were all hybrid creatures of at least 2 different animals, which is the key here.

There were all types of materials used in some mixtures that pretty much only existed in those specific garments and haven’t really been seen much since, or in some cases only until fairly recently and not in large production numbers or from prolific companies. As far as I’m aware all the shirts were combat type with different fabrics on the torso vs the sleeves, generally something thinner and more breathable with less water resistance. For example the Gryphon was a hybrid of Gore-Tex hardshell fabrics for the sleeves, collar and hood with a Tweave Durastrech softshell in the torso. Being a shirt designed to go under body armour, this of course means the area not covered by the armour is thorougly water proof but you’re not holding in unnecessary sweat under that armour.

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If you want to read more it looks like Arc’teryx never got around to deleting this part of their site even though the product is long discontinued (Thanks to militarymorons.com for being a superb archive of cool info like this):


Other shirts in the line included mixtures of different softshells, some with insulation, there was one example with softshell sleeves and a fleece material torso for cold weather wear under armour etc. They were all of course, incredibly expensive on the civilian market and did see some some limited use by SF, but we’re talking the late noughties here when everyone was in Iraq and Afghan and while, yes, obviously places in those countries do get cold in winter/at altitude, the cold and wet just wasn’t a focus equipment wise for most parts of ISAF.

I won’t run through the features on my Phinx here because there’s already a video up on my channel going through the Talos trousers with are just the same so you can go back to watch that if you’re interested. Materials wise the vast majority is a superb Tweave softshell that’s light, blocks wind and a good amount of rain, breathes, is incredibly resistant to any form of damage and basically never fades. There’s 2″ webbing reinforcement on the knees which is a huge plus to my mind over PCU L5 and Crye All-Weather field pants, plus of course the Arc knee caps can be fitted. Also very light nylon reinforcement of the pocket edges, cordura for a torch/knife and a very soft fabric lining waist which is common for waists and collars in all sorts of garments; something the Crye G4 combat pants will also be bringing. I presume this is to alleviate friction against the skin for long term wear by serious dudes spending days/weeks ‘out’, though being a hotel dweller myself I’ve had minimal experience with wearing armour or belts so long they chafed the skin even through clothing. Though that minimal experience was enough to know that when it starts it is no fun at all, that is for sure.

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Essentially I wanted a set of trousers that would serve me as well as anything could in typical English winter weather and as I’ve mentioned in the past softshell is the way to go. ECWCS L5 trousers in multicam can be had far cheaper and will do a similar job in many respects, but when these came up in my size with fairly little usage on them they just fit the bill too neatly. They certainly could work very well for any outdoor pursuit being a fairly innocuous colour (and not camo), plus of course for the odd weekend airsoft game on the tan team they’ll be quite literally exactly what I want in a lower garment.

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Strange Pants By Germans

Welcome to the Euro zone, it’s like the twilight zone but with weirder tac gear.

Crye have pretty much nailed it when it comes to the cut of a combat trouser in my mind, however if I only ever bought their stuff I’d get bored and I like to try out different options here and there. Partly to keep my own interest levels up, but also bring some more varied coverage here of commercially available kit (at least at the time I buy it).

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I wanted a pair of trousers in PenCott Camouflage GreenZone that could take an external knee pad, and at the time I hadn’t yet gone off the D3O pads, so I opted for these Leo Köhler GmbH & Co. KG Defender 2.0s. At a quick glance they might not seem that unusual, but the more you dig the more strangeness you find going on compared to what you’re generally accustomed to.

Apart from the usual 2 upper front pockets and one butt pocket with a button (alas 4 hole type), the only other storage you’ll find is right on the front of the legs just above the knees. These pockets have both a double press stud cover and a zip for closure. The zips on the side of them are mesh ventilation, a feature you’ll also see on some UF-Pro offerings and on Vertx without the zips, but overall a much more European feature I would say.



Much like G3 combats there are stretch panels at the lower back and in the groin, which is definitely a big plus. These are not found on the knee pads, but as long as you buy the right size and wear them properly I don’t find that an issue on other designs which also don’t feature stretch around the knees (including Crye fields). I’m not sure why the stretch fabric goes up over the NYCO at the back of the waist, but it doesn’t seem to inhibit function.

The ankles have elastic and 3 press studs for adjustment, which combined with the location of the cargo pockets gives these trousers a distinct feel of an aircrew or tank crewman’s coveralls. Whether that was something they had in mind I’m not sure but I’d imagine some military unit or other came to LK with a list of requirements and this garment was the end result. As is often the case with anything coming from a decent company in the tactical realm that seems strange.


It is tempting in a way to replace these with something that could take an Airflex knee pad, but I’ll probably just wear these with internal foam padding only. Overall the sewing work is decent and I’d say you’re actually getting a pretty bloody nice set of features for the price too. As long as those features fit in to what you want/need.

ASMC GmbH carries the Defenders 2.0s in Multicam, GreenZone, Flecktarn and RG; the first 2 being in NYCO, possibly the RG too; then the Fleck is PYCO as with literally everything else I’ve ever seen made in a Flecktarn-family pattern.

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ey oh arrrrr

Took a few days out there to travel back home from the det I was on, pick up this delivery then sort through it, still only done half the photography after many hours working through this stuff.

New Crye and Patagonia for the collection (all fits in rather nicely), lots of 1″ hardware to swap ;to matching colours for my OCD.  Then lots of tests to be carrier out with following decisions to be made about how I’ll be using Spiritus and Ferro modular placards/chest rigs and other pieces in my load bearing gear in future.

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Protect The Helmet

If you’ve dropped a big old wedge in to fancy head gear (which could be many, many thousands in some cases) I really have to recommend you spend a comparative smidge more and pick yourself up a FirstSpear Helmet Hut.

I might go over mine in a video at some point but you can pretty much see all you need to see in a picture. There’s padding all around with various rigid inserts to encase all those valuables. The central webbing strap locks down the helmet with both tension and a velcro interface with the loop on most modern designs, as well as helmet covers that mimic the loop distribution of the helmet shell. Then there’s zipped pockets along both sides for all those patches and blinkey widgets. I don’t reckon I actually need to discuss material quality or stitch work.

Personally I put my PVS and mount inside a thickly padded case for an old compact camera that was handed down to me years ago. That case goes inside my Ops-Core where my head would be, then the whole thing is strapped inside the Hut. I leave my ARC rail adaptors on as well usually since there’s plenty of space inside for those to be swung back on top of the helmet with your choice of electronic hearing protection mounted. Depending on your setup, if you can’t swing back your ear defs they can just be detached and ride alongside the bucket.

Given that the rifle and helmet tend to be the 2 main locations for layering on of gizmos, I’m really a fan of a neat, organised and protective container for all of my head mounted kit. Once there’s a helmet in there, there isn’t necessarily huge swathes of storage space in the side pouches for 7 different types of strobe, a dozen spare batteries, multiple pairs of goggles etc but there certainly is space for the key, expensive items you’ll want to treat with care. This keeps the overall size of the Hut down which is handy since you’re likely to be stashing it inside another kit bag, especially for any sort of travel where you’re not in a personally owned vehicle and need to keep all your belongings amalgamated. Definitely a consideration for military folks and for civilians who might be travelling with a full load of personal equipment around their country or around the world.

AMCU Combat Lowers

Ask and thou shalt receive.

Was not easy tracking down these Aus Army issued AMCU combat trousers. I first saw them when being worn by some Australian blokes stationed at a base I briefly transited through in the UAE and I’d never actually spotted them online before then at that point, so being the nerd I am for this stuff my interest was more than slightly piqued. I saw a fair bit more of the stuff in another dusty place shortly thereafter and if it weren’t for the fact I knew they’d probably not have a well-stocked stores in country to replace bartered gear I’d have strolled right up and probably written a blank cheque.

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I certainly got lucky to source a new pair in my size not too long after getting back from that trip, especially since they represent 2 interesting things for me. First they’re another set of combats that are not Crye but will accept Crye combat knee pads, that being a kit niche I’ve been diligently searching for for many years now. Second they are an example of G3-like combat cut pants which have been issued to folks outside the US Armed forces. Again, not a common thing and from what I’ve read online (posted by Australians who’ve served) it’s not the norm for the Aus Defence Force to surplus gear at all, it gets used to destruction or deliberately destroyed so obtaining any of their kit isn’t nearly as simple as US/UK mil surplus.

Originally announced with adoption/roll out beginning at the end of 2014 you can read the official Australian Army fact/press release sheet here:


The pattern is of course essentially Crye Multicam using the old DPCU colour palette with ADF logos inserted (see pictures), with the exception of the stretch panels which are the same Multicam nylon/spandex fabric used by Crye in their combat pants. I’ve seen photos where the stretch panels appear to have been changed to be matching, though I’ve no idea if that’s just a result of dirt or the lighting of the image. Any proprietary stretch fabric used would more than likely be a downgrade in durability compared to Crye’s material.

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I’m still working through older photography here so I’ve been remiss in not picturing the label, but the fabric is majority cotton, around 60-70%, unlike common PYCO/NYCO that uses 50% cotton at the very most. The manufacturer name is Hard Yakka though their facebook page is expired. Whether they actually manufacture in Australia or do the same thing as the British uniform contractor and out-source to China I’m unsure, though I’d suspect the latter.

Unlike Crye combats the main cargo pockets are zipped closed, the top of the fly is a button, the ankle is cinched down with elastic cord and the waist adjustment tabs are an interesting moulded plastic piece. Other than that the feature set is pretty much what you’d expect from G3s and Crye knee pads are 100% compatible and fit just fine.

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I don’t personally rate the durability in terms of either the fabric, hook+loop brand used or the stitching quality. They have a lovely pyjama feel from all the cotton content but mine have faded substantially from just one short-cycle wash and a piece of the hook that secures the knee pad pocket cover flap is now hanging in the breeze despite being properly secured through said wash. It’s not like I’m not familiar with procedures to take care of/extend the like of uniforms through use by this point either. Still a nice item for the collection and hopefully the MoD will follow this example for more personnel than just aircrew in future.