Quick look at something non-tactical from Beyond Clothing.
Picked up a couple of these A5 (PCU Level 5) Brokk shirts in their sale a while back, interesting pieces. Main construction is an extremely lightweight softshell, very thin, blocks wind and provides the slightest of protection from a light shower. That said, a large portion of the shirt is also made from mesh which will of course let wind and rain through, so it’s an odd one, though most of the mesh is on the back. with some on the sides. Most of the front, shoulders and arms is made of the nylon shell.
There’s a 2-way 1/2 zip on the centre with a pair of handy mesh pockets that are built in, one on the chest and another on the lower back. Elasticated cuffs that are sewn in place with adjustable elastic running through the waistband, mesh lining through the collar.
Very technical cut with lots of articulation, retains barely any heat and the wind will come through the piece from front to back (especially with the zip down) but obviously if you’re needing to keep the weather out this isn’t the shirt for you. The idea of the softshell is to keep the thing supremely light, mega packable (which it definitely is), abrasion resistant, colour-fast and breathable – all in one package. Replacing the shell with more mesh or a thinner, cheaper synthetic would increase wicking and air permeation, but you simply can’t beat a level 5 fabric when it comes to taking the knocks and scrapes of life and retaining colour through loads of wash cycles.
I use these for short runs when the weather is in between and as a general handy shirt to throw on between my room and the gym when, again, the weather isn’t quite t-shirt friendly. When the temperatures are low enough it’s actually absurdly handy to be able to stash my key and Magpul wallet inside, rather then having those bare essentials in my shorts pockets and getting jabbed by them when sitting/lying down to do different exercises. Frankly they also just look cool.
As a contradiction to the last post, this is a piece from Arc’teryx LEAF that I am overall a definite fan of – the Assault AR combat shirt. Luckily (as is the case in a lot of posts I’m going to make over the nest year) The Reptile House has already gone in to great depth on the details, so you can read all that via this link and I just get to waffle my infinitely more vague thoughts on the matter:
I picked up this example in Ranger Green as a test of sorts to put together the ‘best’ combat set in NYCO for general temperate conditions, though this was long before the announcement of Crye’s Gen 4. So we’re not talking about any softshells or hot weather fabrics like Gore Katana, or indeed anything flame resistant. Since the G3 shirt has been rather outmoded for some years now, but I preferred the CP combat trousers over the offering from Arc’teryx, I came to the conclusion that on paper the ideal setup would a combination of the two manufacturers.
Since Arc’s ‘Crocodile’ and Crye’s Khaki 400 are rather far apart and Crye have never made any significant amount of grey gear, the options left were MC, RG or Black, but I already own way too much Multicam and not nearly enough Ranger Green. I’m really not a fan of plain black either and the one set I have is more than enough, so that made the decision quite easy. It would be nice to see come other high end brands offering MC Tropic and Arid, but for now the G3 remains just about the best combat shirt offering in those patterns.
The three primary draws to the Assault AR for me were the underarm mesh, the solid loop field/zip pockets with horizontal access and crucially the more complex pattern in the construction. Under the arm is of course one of the most prolific areas for sweating and any extra air flow or increased rate of moisture transportation in that area is definitely a plus for comfort in the heat. I find the vertical flap access on a bicep shirt pocket to be so awkward I will never, ever use those pockets and the split velcro on the G3 combat shirt is just awful at providing reliable retention of patches. The G3 is also pretty close to just having straight up tubes of fabric for arms, there’s very little extra shaping to them and as you’ll see in the pictures here, the Assault AR certainly does not suffer that issue.
I find the collar arrangement with the single button and velcro to be less practical than the commonly seen zip, it also seems to be cut rather narrow as it’s a tad tighter around my neck than I’d ideally like even though the medium shirt fits well otherwise. I never had an issue of a friction point from the zip on the issued UBACS when worn under Osprey, however the Mk4 is very thickly padded inside and I’ve only ever worn mine for about 3-4 hours at most in one sitting. There are lots of other PCs out there with minimal to zero padding between the hard plate and the wearer’s chest, so eliminating the zip can certainly be a positive in some situations.
Pricing is a bit more than the Crye option even with CPs price hike recently, however the very frequent sales on LEAF gear at Tactical Distributors (and other stores) bring the price at retail much closer to even and when you take in to account the positive aspects of the Assault AR, that makes it the all around superior choice to my mind. A much clearer cut winner for Arc compared to the swing-and-a-miss that is the Recce AR.
So, this is the Arc’teryx LEAF Recce Shirt AR, in MultiCam. Now obviously you can see the pattern and I don’t actually need to tell you that information, yet in the case of the current LEAF offerings you’ll find yourself paying a not-inconsiderable amount more money to get the camouflage item versus the solid colours, so the specific variant is more relevant than it would be usually.
If you’ve not looked up this shirt online, I’ll just get the shocker out of the way now, because the standard retail price… is $350. Must be a fancy FR fabric right? Top end softshell? Must be? Nope. NYCO. Three hundred and fifty dollarinos for a field cut shirt (to use CP’s parlance) made primarily of basically the same fabric archetype that can be found in some US surplus uniforms shirts that sell for ~$15 in various places.
Would you ever pay full price? Of course not you wait for the inevitable Arc’teryx sale that comes around every few months like clockwork at every store that stocks Arc’teryx. Then, as I did, you do your best to play the system andintegrate your work discount and/or other coupon codes in there on top of the sale that’s already going on. The other issue with acquisition is that production quantities and the amount of examples in circulation are so low compared to, say, Crye stuff in multicam, you’re just not at all likely to find those sweet 2nd hand deals as you will with more prevalent kit (let alone in your size/good nick).
I picked up this example from Tactical Distributors, who as I’ve posted about in the past, have genuinely legendary levels of customer service. They also bring in all the latest LEAF gear and do have sales with a high frequency which you should keep an eye out for. TacticalGear.com do stock the Recce as well and when it’s on sale the MC version comes down in line with what you’ll pay for a pair of G3 combat trousers from Crye – bargain… ?
I’ll say now that I’m not even going to attempt to go in to all the details in this post. To fully review this shirt would be an incredibly long blog post with many dozens of pictures. You can’t go spending that much money without seriously delving in to the how and why Arc’teryx have managed to reach this price point on such a garment. I actually really struggled to start writing this post at all because this shirt is such an incredible anomaly, even within the upper echelons of the market and it was hard to decide where to even begin the discussion.
What I do find interesting is that the Recce AR costs more than the Assault AR, which is the equivalent NYCO shirt in the combat cut. When you look at it, it does make absolute sense because there has been far, far more sew time put in to the Recce with the chest pockets, covered buttons down the front and highly sculpted patterning throughout the chest/abdomen. A far more complicated construction overall compared to the wicking torso area on a combat shirt. But as far as the pricing goes it’s not what we’ve all become accustomed to in the commercial market place, because usually the combat shirt from any given company is the more expensive product when put next to X company’s field shirt.
For myself I will say that this shirt does tick the box of being the objective best option for the given style/pattern, purely because I deliberately exclude cost considerations in my deciding what is best for my own collection. The reason I reviewed the SKD Tac enhanced BDU shirt so favourably a little while ago is that that item specifically becomes the best multicam field pattern shirt I’ve ever seen as soon as you factor in the ratios of cost to quality. The Recce on the other hand is truly a perfect example of the uppermost end of the chart when you’re talking about the principle of ever diminishing returns for ever increasing costs. The manufacturing skill and time that has been put in here is substantial (to massively under-exaggerate), yet I cannot imagine the gains in usage versus a G3 Field shirt or the SKD being anywhere remotely close to proportional to the price increase. When you get down to brass tacks – it just doesn’t really make sense.
Bearing in mind there are a lot of people who slam Arc any time it’s mentioned on popular outlets like Soldier Systems and usually I disagree with their conclusions on the pricing being excessive, because the inclement weather items (Gore-tex, insulation, softshell etc) are absolute world leaders in materials and quality of construction. You also *always* make sure to wait for a sale. As an example; my non-LEAF Atom LT hoody gets worn almost daily from roughly October to March and that has been the case for over 4 years now. I bought it for $160 on sale from SKD in 2014 and I’m not joking at all when I say it still looks brand new. I’m not putting it through harsh outdoor use I’ll say that, it’s an everyday on base/informal socialising/gym time jacket, but it’s still done an amazing job for me in hundreds of hours worth of wear and continues to look pristine. If I continued to reserve it for ‘gentle’ use and perhaps took advantage of Arc’teryx’s globally legendary warranty service at some point in many years, it’s the sort of garment that might well out last me.
So while the Recce is quite outstandingly impressive in a myriad of ways that I’ve not even mentioned yet and I do like owning it, that sentiment is coming from the mindset of being an avid collector of such uniform pieces. Plus of course being in a place where I’ve tried all the more economical options over a decade+ and sold them on to be replaced with gradually better and better alternatives. I’d certainly not dive right in to the Lamborghini option when my speed limit is 70 and a basic diesel VW Golf will fulfill the exact same transport functionality in the real world.
If I get sufficient time wearing the shirt I may go in to the details on a video at some point, but that would, again, have to be an extremely long video to have even a sliver of hope of just maybe covering the reasons why this shirt costs as much as it costs.
Welcome back to the euro zone, where the gear is stranger than that one ‘burger’ you got in Berlin after not quite translating the menu properly.
Clothing that’s specifically offered in Coyote Brown and other darker khaki variants, instead of lighter tans, is comparatively unusual as things go. However I think CB is a far more versatile colourway than your conventional tan and when you look at the pouches and other LBE that most quality manufacturers offer, that theory is fairly well backed up. After ordering a set of the PLATATAC Tac Dax MkII combat trousers in CB for a steal of a price in a sale some years ago, I was left without the accompanying shirt (out of stock) and spent quite while searching around for a good alternative option.
In order to try and kill 2 birds with one stone I went for the Clawgear MkIII Combat Shirt; it came in Coyote NYCO and ClawGear represented both a brand I’d not yet tried and one I also felt might offer a high quality product at a fairly middling price. Certainly a whole lot less than Crye or Arc’teryx. The number of brands that actually fall in to this commercial kit middle ground that I often recommend are pretty small, so I do like to feature them whenever I can. Doubly so when the majority of media seems to either cover only the most expensive or only the very cheapest manufacturers. Not to imply these mid-range names are necessarily the best deal overall when you take in to account 2nd hand sales, but the fact is a lot of people do prefer to just buy straight new from retail. Warranties, ease of sourcing etc.
The keen eyed will have noticed some unusual features with the shirt quite quickly and it certainly had me furrowing my brow when it came out of the packet. In the first instance, it’s not symmetrical. The left upper arm pocket is pretty much in the conventional vein of a Crye Gen 2 combat shirt with velcro top flap and 2 areas of loop, but then the right arm pocket is a single piece of exterior loop on a pocket that is accessed via inboard zip. Both are entirely valid and well proven designs for a shirt sleeve pocket at this point, however the MkIII is the only product I’ve seen that blends in both.
On the cuffs you’ve got an unusual cut pattern that extends over the outer surfaces of the hand by default, along with an extendable strip of edging tape with velcro interface to cinch things up and a short zip that’s intended to facilitate ease of sleeve rolling. Also, the features around the collar allow for fitment of a NYCO hood if so desired.
Despite these funky quirks I’ve got no complaints with the overall construction and the NYCO sleeves with a very comfortable wicking+FR torso are very nice indeed. Given the many revisions they’ve gone through in their garments and the range of colours offered, I very much expect I’ll buy more from ClawGear. Especially when those colours include Flecktarn, CCE, Navy blue and RAL7013 (the latter being very high on my own personal list).
I may replace this specific shirt with the newer Operator Combat Shirt which is not asymmetrical and has a far more ‘normal’ cuff arrangement, but the MkIII here is still available in the outlet section of Claw’s site and I would not discourage anyone from making that saving if their size was available.
I DO NOT LIKE THE BLACK VARIANTS OF ANY GIVEN PATTERN. He says.
LA Police Gear had these VERTX Combat Shirts (which was the product name at the time) in Kryptek Outdoor Group Typhon on clearance a while back; something absurd like $20. Vertx are a good mid-range brand much like Leo Kohler and similarly priced to some Tru-Spec stuff, but definitely a step up in basically all departments compared to TS and I’d certainyl put them a rung above 5.11. I think they don’t get nearly the credit they deserve in terms of bringing a good few gear items to the commercial market which offer a fair bit for the money when compared to the higher end manufacturers. Certainly by comparison to the some of the clone junk that’s priced in the same mid range ballpark by distributors and retailers for no justifiable reason.
As far as I’ve been able to gather over the years, all the Krpytek fabric for tac uniforms was printed on 50/50 nylon/cotton originally, but they have since been making PYCO to lower production costs and clearly try to squeeze more money out of some of their own branded products that are unique to the Kryptek online store. LAPG advertised this shirt as NYCO, while the label says poly/cotton, by my side by side analysis would not indicate the polyester content. I don’t know a reliable testing method to make a determination that isn’t destructive though, so I’ll just have to go with my gut and leave it at that.
From what I can see the ‘Recon’ combat shirt currently offered on the Vertx site is the exact same cut as this one, but the earlier models like this use a simpler polyester wicking torso that’s somewhat similar to the Vel Sys BOSS Rugby, whereas newer production incorporates the 37.5 anti-microbial torso with coconuts built in (somehow).
Very similar overall cut to CP AC combat shirt as you can see here. The elbow double layering will not accept an elbow pad, but the end of the 1/4 zip inside the torso isn’t just an exposed mess flapping around as per Crye and there’s a handy elastic cord pull on said zip. They’ve also gone to the effort of putting NYCO between the zip and the weaker torso material, always a plus. I’d presume the intention of the plush fabric collar lining is to mitigate strap bite or rub (be it weapon sling or LBE) since this isn’t a shirt for cold weather that features insulation. Similar material in there to the lining the G4 combat trouser will have inside the waist band which is put there to minimise abrasion and painful red skin.
If I ever happen to find the matching PLATATAC pants in my size I may go for them, but that’s a pretty big if. While I think the pattern is silly enough to be mildly interesting looking, I certainly don’t rate it enough to go out and spend the money to buy trousers in a cut I don’t like just to have the set.
Although they may not crop up so often these days, the P-Tac CUTS was pretty bloody popular a couple of years back and a lot of them were produced in Multicam in particular, as well as a good quantity in Mandrake, Highlander and Typhon. Not to mention a couple of the legacy Aussie patterns and the infamous SRR/Afghan sets in a weird proprietary looking pattern that I don’t even know the name of. Plus of course, a small handful of examples (possibly single digits) in Nomad, as seen here.
The spacer mesh on the shoulders is a obvious giveaway anytime somebody’s wearing one of these as it’s pretty unique to the CUTS design, though some versions were made without it but they’re less numerous. There are other combat shirts out there with padded shoulders but the padding tends to be encapsulated in NYCO, a bit like padded paintball gear. You see a lot of that coming out of Russia; also Tactical Performance Inc.are another brand I’ve looked at recently and will hopefully feature here in future.
CP AC style loop fields on the upper sleeves, with an IR square cover of edging tape stowed inside the pocket lid and zip access to the bicep pockets on the sides there. The velcro cuffs and collar zip are basically just as you’d expect.
One deviation from the AC shirt I’m a fan of is the fact the elbow pads are fully enclosed in a pocket. Crye’s Gen 2 combat elbow pads are compatible but if you’re not using them there’s velcro around the inside of the pack pocket to really close it up – unlike the Army Custom shirt.
Interim generation Patagonia PCU Level 9 ‘Next To Skin’ combat shirt in AOR1. If you missed the post on the lower half of this set be sure to go scroll back here on the site and take a look.
I say interim as the earliest versions of this shirt had plain tan loop that fully covered the shoulder pockets, then later they manufactured the torso fabric in AOR for an entirely colour-matched end product along with the shown AOR loop sewn here. Comparing all 3 iterations against each other ‘in the flesh’ I’ve not found any differences in the cut, just the aesthetics.
Next To Skin is usually shortened to NTS and I think that’s a point worth mentioning as I rarely seem to see combat shirts worn that way. I’d never deny that there are some situations where either an insulating base layer or a close fitting super-fast wicking under shirt can make sense under a combat shirt, but as a general rule I’ve generally not worn anything an underneath them myself. If it’s cold and you’re wearing armour then that will keep in a lot of heat, there are also specific combat shirts manufactured using softshell and fleece fabrics; if it’s cold and you’re not in armour then a jacket obviously makes far more sense.
Depending on the exact fabric composition and fit of your combat shirt it may in some instances potentially be prudent to go with a synthetic, fast drying base layer with a tight fit, but generally more layers does equate to more retention of heat, so the best bet is to make sure you buy a shirt which is thin, allows air flow and dries rapidly in the crucial areas. All of the above being reasons I’m a big advocate of the issued MTP UBACS if you’re on a budget and the UF-Pro Strike XT if you want to spend a bit more (to name 2 prime examples). This is assuming FR is not a requirement for you in whatever your task may be, flame risk changes the game and very much reorganises your priorities.
Today’s post is the last bit of Crye Precision for just a little while, then I’ll be breaking it up with a few different bits and pieces. When we get back to it’ll finally just about be time for me to talk about the Generation 1 combat apparel.
An unusual thing about CP gear in the UK is that a very large proportion of it happens to be what is termed the ‘UKSF Custom’ as seen here. I’d imagine regular AC/Gen 2 stuff was issued somewhere or other within the MoD, but from what I’ve seen the beardy blokes must have ordered in an actual metric shit ton of these combat sets in multicam. Obviously they will have issued and used the majority of what was bought for themselves, then as with anything issued a certain percentage somehow seeps out in to the civilian market. But there’s so much floating around that the original quantity ordered was either monstrous, or they had a bulk disposal at some point. The latter seems unlikely though as any G3 adoption seemed to lag a fair bit behind the commercial release of the 3rd gen. Again probably because there was so much stock of 2nd gen hanging around.
Features wise, these ‘Custom’ tag sets are basically the same as Navy Custom, which itself is only a pretty minor deviation from commercial Army Custom. Both have a pair of covered 4-hole buttons on each cargo pocket, with little button holes sewn on the upper edge of the front thigh/ankle pockets under the flaps. These are presumably for lanyarding of equipment since they’re no use for a button in that location. There’s also buttons at the fly in place of the zip.
I’m consistently disappointed by Crye’s usage of 4 hole buttons vs canadian/taped because they just don’t have anywhere near the longevity. But then the reality is that the intention of these sets is to last maybe a month or so of deployed usage tops, get worn out and ripped, then disposed of. On the other hand, I had lunch with a certain bunch of people in a dusty place once a while back and their CP combats had seen so much wear and washing that the Multicam NYCO had turned essentially white in a few cases. They may have kept a pair aside for barrack wear perhaps, I wasn’t going to press any questions in the circumstance.
Brief history on crye combats in Flecktarn and Tropentarn. During the Gen 2/AC production era, various sets were made in both patterns and issued in some numbers to German special forces units. Some were also available commercially in a roundabout fashion if you knew where to dig and e-mailed the right person at a specific German military gear supplier, but they ran out of stock many, many years ago I don’t think many were sold by that route. No field uniforms made to my knowledge. The combat shirt is the regular AC cut with no deviations but the trousers feature 2 very prominent slotted buttons CS95 style going through the main thigh cargo pockets. Something requested by the German military that’s pretty unique to the Fleck/Trop combat pants.
The G3 combat sets in both patterns were sold via TACWRK who presumably paid quite a bit to have a custom run done just for them to sell. I don’t know if the G3s were ever issued but if they were it certainly wasn’t in the same numbers as the AC sets. The G3s also don’t deviate from the standard cut or design in any way.
I was definitely lucky to get this shirt in an auction, certainly in my size and hardly used. To go back to the title, all the Fleck/Trop stuff features the exact same labelling as standard commercial AC and G3 uniforms, however I’m 90% sure the fabric is not NYCO, I think they just used the label systems that were already in place. All the standard issue Flecktarn uniforms are made from a poly/cotton that’s somewhat different in material ratios to most commercial PYCO gear as well as CS95 and PCS. That fabric has of course been printed in huge volume over the years to supply the German military and I don’t believe Crye Precision had special NYCO printed.
You’ll note there’s no rip-stop evident and while I’ve admittedly not taken this stuff to a lab for spectroscopic testing, it certainly looks, feels, flexes, smells, wears and fades exactly like all the standard issue Flecktarn gear I’ve seen. As well as the Leo Kohler Fleck gear I’ve tried, which has labelling exactly matching the UF-Pro Fleck/Trop, reinforcing the notion that there’s only one kind of material being printed in these patterns.