Category Archives: Clothing

More Vuurwapen Blog T Shirts

After a long wait, Vuurwapen Blog t shirts are again ready to envelop you in their coolness.

Blue XL are gone.

shirts

In addition to the original colors, Union Blue and Rebel Grey:

Do you lament Sherman’s March to the Sea? If so, you’ll want a Rebel Gray shirt, even though there’s a terrible irony in the motto on the back of the shirt, “Burning Bridges Since 2009.” Actually, this color is more of a charcoal than simple gray, which makes sense since we are talking about burning bridges, after all. Or cotton fields. If you’re not a Southerner but are scared of colors, like my friend Brett, you’ll want this charcoal shirt.

Are you a proud Yankee/American, even though all those icky Northern states seem to not like guns any more? Well, Union Blue is definitely more your style. Even if you’re from the South and want a non-tactically colored shirt to tell your friends you like an obscure gun blog, you’ll probably want to break from tradition and go with blue.

…the shirts are now available in Don’t Shoot Me Red and Olympic Diving Pool Green.

As before, the shirts are Next Level Apparel poly/cotton (65/35). I have received lots of positive feedback about how comfortable they are. I wanted quality shirts that felt nice to wear and looked good, and that’s what I ended up with.

I have them in men’s sizes small through XXL in Union Blue and Rebel Grey and limited numbers of men’s medium through XL in Don’t Shoot Me Red and Prophet Muhammad’s Favorite Shade of Green. I also have a few remaining women’s sizes small and medium from the first run – these are most appropriately sized for toddlers, I think. I can’t actually imagine an adult fitting in one of them, but if that’s what you wear, let me know.

Blue XL are gone.

Cost is again $17 per shirt.

A recent advancement in technology known as the steam engine has allowed me to reduce shipping costs for the envelopes by eighty cents(!) and pass these savings on to you. Shipping options are Priority Mail small flat rate box for $6.80 or USPS First Class in a Tyvek envelope for $3.50 (the Tyvek envelopes apparently worked very well in terms of protecting the garments last time, as no one told me otherwise). I would prefer payment by PayPal to 545ar15@gmail.com, and please don’t use the gift option.

Vuurwapen Blog T Shirts

 

 

Over the years since I started this blog, many people have asked if I am going to make t shirts – at least four or five people in the last six or seven years. Well, their long-forgotten wishes are now true, and they even have a choice of colors, Union Blue or Rebel Gray!

shirts

Do you lament Sherman’s March to the Sea? If so, you’ll want a Rebel Gray shirt, even though there’s a terrible irony in the motto on the back of the shirt, “Burning Bridges Since 2009.” Actually, this color is more of a charcoal than simple gray, which makes sense since we are talking about burning bridges, after all. Or cotton fields. If you’re not a Southerner but are scared of colors, like my friend Brett, you’ll want this charcoal shirt.

Are you a proud Yankee/American, even though all those icky Northern states seem to not like guns any more? Well, Union Blue is definitely more your style. Even if you’re from the South and want a non-tactically colored shirt to tell your friends you like an obscure gun blog, you’ll probably want to break from tradition and go with blue.

The shirts themselves are quite nice, if I may say so. The design and cheeky motto with absolutely no intended reference to anything specific are printed on Next Level Apparel poly/cotton (65/35) shirts. These shirts feel very soft and stretchy. Sizing seems to run on the smaller side – kind of like a Wylde chamber, they might make you more accurate, but I am not responsible for popped primers or bulging waistlines.

And while women comprise approximately six percent of my Facebook/YouTube audience, over twenty percent of the shirts available are in women’s sizes! Inexplicably, the women’s shirts cost almost a dollar more to make each, despite their being the same material. However, I will not pass these increased costs on to you! Don’t say I’ve never fought the patriarchy!

Pricing is $17 per (~3.5-4.5oz) shirt, approximately ten dollars less than a two pack (2x2oz) of FireClean from Brownells, making it a better deal by weight. The first 20 shirt buyers will receive a free sample of FireClean! That has to at least double the value of the shirt. Add $1 if you would like your shirt blessed with FireClean.

Sizes available are mens medium, large, extra large, and extra extra lavrge. Also available are a limited number of womens small, medium, and large. As the sizes/colors sell out, I will update this post.

 

 

Shipping options are Priority Mail small flat rate box for $6.80 or USPS First Class in a Tyvek envelope for $4.30. I would prefer payment by PayPal to 545ar15@gmail.com. If this is not possible, I suppose that I could also accept check/money orders or body parts.

Arc’teryx LEAF Pants: Drac vs. Sphinx vs. Talos

I have been using Arc’teryx apparel on a rather frequent basis for well over a year, and as a result, feel comfortable writing reviews or comparisons of many of their products. I have previously written about the brand but not any specific product.

The Arc’teryx logo as seen on their Sphinx pants.

Because it is a topic that seems to come up quite often, I thought I would reach into my Arc’closet and start with the Arc’teryx LEAF pants that I own – the Drac, Sphinx, and Talos. I overhear people talk about the differences between each in mild puzzlement, and while the Arc’teryx website provides a very clear technical definition of each product, a practical explanation of the differences isn’t immediately obvious.

From left: Sphinx, Talos, Drac

There are a number of similarities – all three have zippers at the fly, two snaps at the waist, velcro closures for the pockets, drawstrings at the cuffs, reinforced knees, kneepad compatibility, and so on. In addition, each item of clothing described here was made with exacting craftsmanship, as I have come to expect from the Arc’teryx brand. However, there are also a number of differences, which I will cover below.

I don’t intend for this article to talk anyone who, like me, wears $25 Dickies pants on a regular basis into buying a closet full of Arc’teryx apparel. Instead, I intend for it to help someone who wants to buy a pair of Arc’teryx LEAF pants make an informed purchasing decision. If you’d like to pick up an Arc’teryx product that offers a lot of usefulness for its cost, check out the Atom LT; be warned, it might not be the last Arc’product you buy.

Drac Pants

Arc’teryx describes the Drac pant as “Durable, breathable, wind and weather-resistant combat-ready pants constructed using smooth-sided, warm-facing stretch textiles and anatomical patterning for maximum comfort and mobility.” They retail for $298 and their overall weight is 1lb, 13.3 ounces. My pair was made in China.

In my opinion, the Drac offers the best water resistance and low temperature insulation of the three. The fabric looks and feels quite similar to many “softshell” jackets or gloves. It’s soft on the inside, which is nice for comfort as well as moisture wicking. The outside has a DWR (durable water repellent) coating and does a very good job of keeping average rainfall or snow moisture away from your body. This coating won’t last forever, but it can apparently be reapplied at the end user level – something I haven’t had to do yet.

The material used for the Drac is rather noisy. Using a calibrated sound meter placed three feet away from the pants, I rubbed the two legs together and saw the meter jump to an average of 77 decibels. In dry conditions, this would matter quite a lot, but if there were heavy rainfall, I highly doubt that any human would be able to make out the sound. This is in comparison to 68 decibels for a pair of issued MARPAT utility trousers, 65 decibels for the Talos pants, and 74 decibels for the Sphinx pants. According to this website, a difference of 10db is “about twice as loud,” while 3db is “barely perceptible.”

The thickness that makes the pants a little warmer than the others doesn’t seem to constrict movement, which I thought was a nice feature. It does make them more of a cold-weather pant. If I had to choose one word to describe the fabric, it would be “smooth.” Of the three pants, the Drac seems to be made of the “stretchiest” fabric.

It’s a good thing we didn’t get lost, because the Wolf color blends in pretty well with most mountain ranges.

My most memorable outing with the Drac pants was when they were brand new and I climbed to the top of a minor peak in the Wasatch Range with my friend Jim of Deliberate Dynamics earlier this year. The terrain, especially on the way down, was incredibly rough. I pushed through thorny bushes, fell or tumbled down snow-covered slopes, and slid into rock faces numerous times. Due to a knee injury sustained halfway up the peak, a decent portion of the way back was spent on my hands and knees, crawling. I wore them over an Arc’teryx Rho base layer and was comfortably warm all the way to the top of the snow-covered mountain.

A closeup of the Drac pant where the reinforced knee panel meets the remainder of the pant leg.
The Drac’s Burly double weave (50% nylon, 43% polyester, 7% spandex) fabric, and Cordura knee reinforcement, at full zoom.

Upon returning home, I washed the pants as I would any other garment. They came out looking like new.

Sphinx Pants

Arc’teryx describes this pant as “Durable, breathable, wind and weather-resistant combat-ready pants constructed using mechanical-stretch textiles and anatomical patterning for maximum comfort and mobility.” In the “technical features” section, they only describe it as “durable,” while the Talos and Drac are described as “highly durable.” They retail for $379 and weigh 1lb 6.8oz. My pair was made in El Salvador.

A closeup of the Sphinx pant, showing a tiny bit of wear after a lot of hard use.

I have had the Sphinx pants since July of 2012. I have used them in two endurance races as well as many desert outings, including the crossing of a number of barbed wire fences. There are a few minor spots where a single thread has pulled away from the rest of the fabric, but these are few and far between. From what I can see, the Sphinx pants seem to be constructed of the the most durable of the three – at least in terms of tear/cut resistance from sharp rocks or barbed wire fences. I cannot speak of abrasion resistance from an objective standpoint because I haven’t conducted any such testing, but from an anecdotal standpoint, the abrasion resistance of the Sphinx pants could be described as excellent.

The Sphinx pant’s Durastretch fabric up close.

The inside of the waistband is composed of a soft, suede-like fabric that feels nice when you load down your waist with guns, ammunition, and other stuff. I don’t normally have waist chafing issues, but if I did, the inside of this waistband would probably solve them. The crotch also seems to be a lot more durable – in terms of sewing and design – than a standard uniform trouser. My issued BDU pants would often tear out at the crotch after a lot of use and some decent squatting – that doesn’t seem to be a problem with the Sphinx, or the Drac or Talos, for that matter.

One word to describe this fabric? Tough.

The pocket configuration (10 in total) of the Sphinx pant is pretty much identical to the Drac, and although a completely different fabric is used – one which feels the same inside and out and doesn’t offer as much insulation against cold air – it’s also flexible/”stretchy” and not at all constraining. In hot weather, I have found them to be very breathable and comfortable. Arc’teryx doesn’t specify whether or not these pants have a DWR coating, but based on their performance in rain, they do an admirable job of not letting water in.

Talos Pants

The Talos pant is, according to Arc’teryx, a “No-melt, no-drip, lightweight, breathable Cotton/Nylon pant with knee pad pockets, and heavy-duty webbing reinforcement in the knees.” In other words, it’s a basic utility or BDU pant, done Arc’teryx style. Retail price is $229 and the weight is 1lb 9.6oz. Like the Sphinx pants, my pair was made in El Salvador.

The Talos pant up close, with cotton for the majority of the garment and Cordura reinforcing the knees and (shown here) knife/tool pockets.

I’ve only had the Talos pants a few weeks, but have worn them for some fairly intrepid hiking in some of the harshest weather southern Utah has seen in decades. This was part of the Arc’teryx Red Rock Adventure, which was held earlier this month, and was totally awesome.

In other words, it rained a lot.

They’re made primarily of cotton, which is really a wonderful fabric, and I’m not just saying that because my home state exports a lot of cotton. Cotton won’t stop outside moisture like the other fabrics and their coatings will, but it dries fast, breathes exceptionally well, and is comfortable to wear for long periods of time. It also doesn’t melt or drip when near flame, which is important for people who might accidentally (or intentionally) be close to fire or explosions.

Here, Rob Curtis of Military Times GearScout rappels while wearing Talos pants in Wolf. His mismatched Crocodile jacket, while perfectly functional, causes him to lose 50 geardo points.

Compared to the Drac or Sphinx, the Talos aren’t made of as exotic a fabric – hence the lower price. That said, they’re my favorite of the three, primarily due to their overall usefulness in many climes (as part of a layered system) or on their own as great pants. Another reason why they’re my favorite is because they are significantly quieter than the other two, as mentioned above. I’m torn on whether to use “comfortable” or “quiet” as the single word to describe cotton, but either one is quite appropriate.

Talos fabric at ant’s eye view

Summary

Drac pants are a good choice for inclement weather in colder climates where making noise is not an issue.

Sphinx pants function well as an all-weather pant and/or in areas where rain might be encountered more frequently and another layer on top of the pants isn’t necessarily desired, again, where making noise is not an issue.

Talos pants are a great replacement for a BDU or utility trouser where keeping noise to a minimum is ideal and a more durable and functional design (than a standard uniform pant) is desired.

If I could change anything about these pants, I would replace the zip fly and velcro pocket closures with buttons, to help with noise reduction.

Overall, these are great pants for work or being in the outdoors, but unlike some of the other LEAF products, I wouldn’t want to walk around town wearing them – for style reasons only. I would like to see an Arc’teryx LEAF pant with fewer side/cargo pockets and no knee reinforcement, in cotton – a less obviously tactical version of the Talos, perhaps, and one which might be somewhat cheaper. It would be like the Atom LT jacket – an Arc’teryx gateway drug.

Why Arc’teryx Clothing Is Expensive

There are two reasons why I am writing this article:

1. To explain what I’ve learned about Arc’teryx LEAF gear after wearing it very often for a year

2. To post photos of myself wearing said gear.

Case in point.

When I first saw how much Arc’teryx stuff cost, I was incredulous. How could this be? A six-hundred-dollar jacket? Three hundred bucks for a pair of pants? Now, a year or so on, I’m sold on their products.

Before I go any farther, I should also mention that most of my experience is with Arc’teryx LEAF (Law Enforcement/Armed Forces), their “tactical” line of clothing, and that some of the items I’ve used were given to me by either Arc’teryx or my friend Jim at Deliberate Dynamics, who sells their gear. However, I’ve also spent a significant amount of my own money buying Arc’teryx LEAF gear.

Reason # 1 – Quality

It’s easy for a reviewer to say that a product is high quality and then move on to other things without explaining further. I’d point to three specific things about Arc’teryx that make their product high quality – design, materials, and construction.

Design

When I say that there is quality in their design, I mean not only style, but that the items are intended for a specific purpose or task and they perform that task very well. They do so with a minimal amount of weight and bulk and often include clever features that are so well integrated that they might be missed at first or second glance. These design features sometimes show up on other manufacturers’ products, but they originate at Arc’teryx.

Although it is one of their more simple products, I will use the Atom LT jacket (MSRP $199) as an example of excellence in design. It’s a pretty basic insulated jacket and available in a variety of colors in their standard line, as well as black, Crocodile (sort of a brownish/greenish/tan), and Wolf (gray/grey) in the LEAF line. It was mostly unchanged when it went from Arc’teryx to LEAF, other than color, and that’s a good thing, because it didn’t need to be changed.

“Crocodile” blended in very well in Syria. Unlike my face, voice, and attitude.

What makes it so great? It weighs 11.5 ounces and is compressible. And it has kept me freakishly warm in some rather cold places, with temperatures reaching just below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time, it’s waterproof and also quite breathable.

I don’t feel uncomfortable wearing it at temperatures up to 65 or 70 degrees, and even then, I can just unzip it. That brings me to another cool design feature, which is that many of the zippers can be unzipped simply by pulling the collar of the jacket away from its counterpart. This is a lot better than fumbling with a zipper if you have thick gloves on or are wearing a pack with chest straps. On the other hand, this means that if you wear scarves like I do, the zipper will be constantly unzipping itself to a certain point unless the zipper is up all the way. Since I’m probably the only person on the “bring masculinity back to scarves” train, that isn’t a big deal.

The fact that it can be compressed and/or squished down to approximately the size of a compressed camp pillow is outstanding. And because it weighs less than a pound, it’s something that always goes with me if I think I might have to deal with even mildly chilly temperatures.

Materials

There are a lot of materials used by Arc’teryx, and I won’t try to cover them all here or describe them in detail, because that’s not my forte. What I will say about Arc’teryx materials is that every lot of, say, Gore-Tex that comes in is inspected through a number of processes before it’s used in clothing. Other manufacturers do this, but perhaps not to the same fanatical level of attention to detail. By the way, whoever managed to make waterproof fleece is a genius.

In addition, the company drives the development or modification of materials for other purposes – for example, thinner waterproof tape over seams. In the end, what matters most is that when it comes to selecting a material for a product, performance (weight, durability, insulation/breathability/waterproofing) is the determining factor, not cost.

Despite being made with as light and breathable a fabric as I have ever encountered, the Chimera shirts (MSRP $149) my teammate (pictured) and I were given to use during the 24 Hour Sniper Adventure Challenge showed no rips or tears after spending lots of time low crawling over sharp rocks and thistles/brambles.

Construction

I can be very detail-oriented at times, but before I had ever laid hands on Arc’teryx stuff, I hadn’t really considered the details of clothing manufacture. Even now, I’ll admit that having a near-perfectly stitched seam doesn’t keep me any warmer. However, when I look at the way their clothing is put together, I am simply impressed.

I took some macro photos of both my Arc’teryx Bravo jacket in Wolf (MSRP $329) and my Dickies Storm gray jacket. I paid approximately ten times as much for the Bravo jacket (the Dickies product was on closeout – I paid closer to retail for the Arc’teryx product). This isn’t intended to be a direct comparison of these specific products, just a look at how a very expensive Arc’teryx jacket compares to a very inexpensive one in an attempt to show that “you get what you pay for.” I picked the same areas of each jacket for the photos below.

With very few exceptions, the stitching of an Arc’teryx product looks like this – straight, even, orderly.
In comparison, the overall stitching of my Dickies jacket is not even or straight.
At full zoom, we can see that the fabric and stitching of the Arc’teryx product, although it has seen very heavy and frequent use, is in excellent shape.
Whether it is due to use or construction or design, the Dickies fabric and stitching appears more worn.
This joining of fabrics on the Bravo jacket, while not perfect, is quite orderly. In addition, the methods of stitching simply look robust to me.
The same area of the Dickies jacket, which is of similar design, shows a much simpler and perhaps less confidence-inspiring manufacturing method.
This internal zippered pocket of the Bravo jacket is shown at full zoom for inspection purposes only – there aren’t any internal zippered pockets on the Dickies jacket.

It comes as no real surprise to me that after almost a year of using the Bravo jacket and treating it roughly, it looks practically new. I’m also not surprised when I hear anecdotal reports from friends who use Arc’teryx stuff that it lasts for years instead of months. I’ve had my share of clothing and gear wear out prematurely, but that really isn’t a concern with any Arc’teryx product I’ve used. The only Arc’teryx product I no longer use is the Alpha jacket (MSRP $599) I loaned to an ex-girlfriend. She decided to never return it.

Reason #2 – Style and Image

I would be remiss if I ignored the fact that a certain level of panache goes with wearing Arc’teryx. Their products are made of materials that not only perform well, but look good. And the same consistency shown above at the smallest levels exists in the overall appearance. Some Arc’teryx products look like finely tailored garments. Others make average people look totally awesome. Well, almost.

A few people might replace “panache” with a slightly less complimentary word, implying some level of snobbishness. That’s fine with me – I like saving money, but I also like nice things, and I don’t really care what other people think about what I wear (except for the time I was invited to a party and found my date looking stunning in a black dress while I looked like an idiot in a t-shirt and jeans).

Negative perceptions aside, Arc’teryx clothing is, to me, quite stylish. Even if it’s been used hard.

Would Paul and I look this good if we weren’t wearing Arc’teryx? Of course not. In fact, we might not have even finished the event, because half of being good is looking good.
This is what happens when you don’t wear Arc’teryx.

To me, there is a lot of appeal in buying a jacket – say, the Bravo in Wolf – that I can wear on a hike or while sliding down a rocky hill, brush the dirt off of, and wear around town without having people look at me like I just crawled out of a storm drain. And in terms of colors, their selections are outstanding – Crocodile works in a lot of places that are brown or green, as I’ve found in places as varied as Lebanon and Arizona. Wolf looks at home in the fancy parts of an urban area but also helped me blend in to to the slums of East Saint Louis.

Should You Buy Arc’teryx Clothing?

For many, the question will be, “Is the Arc’teryx product worth two, five, or ten times as much as what I already own or am thinking about buying?”

From an objective standpoint, as one tries on respective brands in a store, the difference may not be apparent. But after weeks, months, or even years of use, the Arc’teryx jacket or shirt or pants will still be in good shape, performing just like it did when it was new. It will also retain a significant amount of value, should you ever wish to sell it. And, of course, there is the elusive value of an item that is simply “nicer” – whether that is in stitching or welding, and whether or not those details are immediately apparent. It’s hard to find apparel that is “nicer” than Arc’teryx – and that’s why it’s expensive.

If you like having nice things that last, you’ll probably appreciate Arc’teryx. If you just want a jacket for occasional use, you might want to look elsewhere.

This was my first time wearing a shirt, pants, and belt that (combined) cost twice as much as the rifle I was carrying. But it will not be my last.

I can’t make a purchasing decision for you, but I can say that I’ve bought Arc’teryx jackets – at significant expense – because I truly believe that they are a quality product worthy of my hard-earned money.