Tag Archives: reviews

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.


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.


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.


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.

The Magnum Amazon Boot: A Foot’s Best Friend

On this blog, I have done plenty of gear reviews. These reviews are most often based on extensive use of the item, in various climates or locations. Today I came to the realization that I haven’t reviewed some of the gear that I’ve been using for the longest period of time, and this review is one step towards changing that. Unfortunately, in this case, the Magnum boots I’m reviewing have been discontinued. I therefore won’t be spending too much time on individual features, but rather how they were manufactured and how they’ve held up.

After completion of Field Medical Service School, which included several short “marches” up and down the hills of Camp Pendleton, I reported to 5th Marines and did even more marches up and down hills – different hills, at least. I quickly realized that my issued boots were pretty much terrible and set out to find a new pair.

Issued boots suck.

I spoke to a few experienced Marines and Corpsmen, and they recommended Magnum boots. So, a few months before I deployed, I purchased two pairs of Magnum Amazon boots and proceeded to break them in with some walking and running around San Mateo.

Seven years later, I still have one pair of those boots, and I still wear them in the field. Here they are.

The other pair was stolen while I was in Iraq – why someone stole the bloodstained boots instead of the clean ones, I’ll never know. I used this pair for the remainder of the deployment, as well as for hiking in South America – yes, along the Amazon river – and trips across the western United States, Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska. I absolutely love these boots. They have always been comfortable to wear, whether I was stuck behind a desk or moving with 100lbs of gear on my back.

The only issue I have with them is that they do not provide as much ankle support as I might like – one incident in particular, a dismounted patrol at night during which I rolled my ankle and fell down a flight of stairs – sticks in my mind. However, I was able to cinch up the laces on that boot and hobble along at the back of the platoon, despite a less-than-100%-ankle.

This hurt.

I got a lot of comments from guys in my unit about how they looked more like shoes than boots, and the best way I can describe them is to say that they provided a great balance between the comfort of a shoe and the support of a boot. I raved about them so much that it shouldn’t have been a surprise when a pair disappeared. Lesson learned.

One thing that is very important to me is having boots that breathe, and these do a great job of not marinating my feet as the day wears on. In fact, they do a better job than other boots I have with vent holes in the sides. They also keep my feet dry when I splash through puddles or dance in the rain.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about them is how well they’ve held up. Seven years later, the stitching still looks great – a testament to the methods & materials Magnum used to make these boots. I haven’t done a thing for them other than hose them off occasionally, and there are no signs that they’re about to rot away or fall apart. In fact, the only true sign that these boots need to be hung up for good is that the soles have worn down in a few spots. This hasn’t stopped me from wearing them in the field, though.

The soles are billed as “slip/oil resistant,” and they most certainly are. Whether I was scrambling up a lava flow, down a muddy hill, or working on my car in my garage, I have never had a problem with slick or oily surfaces in these boots. There’s not much to say other than they work very well in this regard.

The purchase price for these boots was around $90, which works out to something like 3 cents per day since I’ve owned them. Thinking back over all the gear purchases I’ve made, these Magnum boots are easily in the top three items in terms of how much I like them and how well they’ve held up. I was severely disappointed to find out that they had been discontinued by Magnum.

Spike’s Tactical SAR Rail Review

I have been using the Spike’s Tactical SAR rails for quite some time, and although they are extremely light, they do not seem to give up any strength or durability. However, I have several problems with the way they were designed and manufactured. Spike’s Tactical provided both of these rails for review, as well as some of the rifles seen in the video.

This video is a modification of the “new video format” I tested a few months ago.

Smith & Wesson “E” Series 1911: 21st Century 1911?

I was recently loaned this Smith & Wesson 1911 for a review, and have spent the last few weeks inspecting, carrying, and shooting it. I came away with one big reservation, but overall, a positive opinion of the pistol. It – and the other E series 1911s from S&W, all of which cost less than this tricked-out model – should bring some much-needed quality competition to the factory production 1911 market.

Also, please read Hilton Yam’s review of a similar pistol, which goes into more detail, and comes from the mind of an experienced 1911 gunsmith.

“La Longue Carabine” – Relevance of the 20″ AR-15 in the M4 World

In my experience, most people who are looking to buy AR-15s do so because they want something that looks like what the military uses. Most of these people then buy 14.5″ or 16″ M4 type rifles, regardless of what they actually need or have a use for.

I have a variety of ARs, and several have 20″ barrels and collapsible stocks. They’re great shooters and would fit the needs of a lot of civilian shooters (uh-oh, I said it) much better than an M4.

But they don’t look as cool, or like what SF guys on TV carry, so they’re probably never going to be very popular.

Here’s the video.

(By the way, I’m referring to James Fenimore Cooper’s character Natty Bumppo in Last of the Mohicans with the title of this post).

Blue Force Gear Six Pack Bandolier

I was recently loaned a Blue Force Gear Six Pack Bandolier by Deliberate Dynamics and have been spending a significant amount of time with it.

Similar in design to the BFG TenSpeed line of products which sacrifice long-term durability for significant weight, cost, and size savings, the bandolier lists for $43.95 and is designed to hold six M4 type magazines in its elastic pockets. It has a shoulder strap and a waist strap, both of which are constructed from thin webbing. This piece of gear defines minimalism.

It naturally hangs below your arm opposite the shoulder upon which the strap rests, and stays in place quite well through a lot of movement and activity, though it can be moved farther back behind the torso if you wish to hide it from the view of those in front of you. Retention of items carried is excellent.

The elastic nature of the pouches has caused me to use them for practically everything but M4 mags; it’s a slim and lightweight solution for carrying radios, GPS units, pistols, flashlights, etc. I find that when asymmetrical items are placed in one pouch, it’s best to leave the pouch on the other side unused – so I limit myself to the use of three pouches.

Loading the bandolier up with an IcomIC-A4 radio, a loaded Lancer 20rd 5.56 magazine, and a Glock 22 for 14 hours of hiking in a 20 hour period resulted in an interesting problem – the thin webbing of the shoulder strap cut into my shoulder and apparently pinched a nerve, for about half an hour after I reached my destination, I was unable to move my right arm and had to place it in a sling to avoid an annoying pain in my neck. Granted, I had also slung a ~7lb rifle on that shoulder – but I noticed more discomfort on the hike coming from the bandolier strap than the rifle sling (which was also a Blue Force Gear product and made of thicker webbing).

On the next outing, I padded the area under the webbing and reduced the amount of weight carried in the bandolier, and experienced no issues with pain or limited mobility, although I had a heavier rifle slung on that shoulder for a significant portion of the day.

I’ve noticed some wear on the elastic where the edges of items carried caused stress. I’m not entirely surprised, as elastic material is not 1000D Cordura. The TenSpeed stuff is not intended for heavy and constant use. This is meant to be a quickly accessible storage and carry solution for M4 mags or similarly sized items, to be used only when needed, and it accomplishes this goal quite well. I do not think that this wear will negatively affect the performance of the bandolier for quite some time.

The only thing I’d change would be some type of shoulder pad or thicker webbing for the shoulder strap.├é┬áDespite the problems outlined above and the wear, I absolutely love the bandolier and do not think it’ll be far from me whether I’m at the range or hiking in the desert.

Spike’s Tactical SAR Rails – Too Short

As many who read my blog know, I like Spike’s Tactical. Granted, they’ve given me a lot of stuff – but it’s all looked at with a critical eye, and I don’t often find things to complain about.

With the SAR rails, however, I did.

Spike’s sent me two SAR rails, a 12″ and a 9″. They’re very light – the 9″ weighs under 10 ounces – and I like the titanium barrel nut that makes installation very easy. They have 4 QD sockets for sling swivels, and the width and height are pretty slim, meaning that it’s easy to get a good grip on the rail.

My major issue with them is length. While the older BAR model rails left a short, perhaps 1/4″ gap, between the end of the rail and an FSB at any standard length (carbine, midlength, or rifle), the SAR leaves a gap of over 1/2″ – meaning that the gas tube is far too exposed. This 12″ rail should not leave such a large gap with a rifle length gas system.

I’m using KAC rail covers to cover the gaps, and they seem to do a fine job of protecting the exposed area. Still, it would seem that the SAR rails are intended for use with low profile gas blocks only, in lengths that would cover the gas blocks, not with FSBs placed at the carbine, midlength, or rifle locations.