Applied Orange Combat Socks - First Impressions

About a month ago Applied Orange sent me a pair of High Performance Combat Socks to test and review. They knew I was training for GoRuck, and very kindly sent a pair my way to review.

The first thing that I noticed about these socks is that there is one sock labelled "L" and one labeled "R". I've never had a pair of sock that specialized before. I pulled them on, and laughed to myself remembering that they were marketed as knee-high design. They weren't kidding! These socks were designed to extend over an 8 inch combat boot.

I've never really had a problem with the durability of socks around the toe, but the heel is definitely the first place my socks start pilling and falling apart. Knowing that the toe and heel are reinforced with Cordura yarn gives me confidence that these socks are built to last. Another material that is used in the sock's construction is COOLMAX. This fabric helps move perspiration away from your foot, through the sock, where it can evaporate quickly. I've purchased a few other socks from Wigwam that utilize COOLMAX and have been very happy, so already I knew I was in for a treat with these socks.

OXFAM 100km Trailwalker - Part 1

In 2011 I was surfing around of Facebook and noticed some pictures coming through from the OXFAM 100km Trailwalker event. I saw one of my buddies with his feet taped up, laying on his back with his feet rested against the side of a car. I was immediately intrigued. I clicked through some of the pictures and was excited to see that they were still in the middle of the event and that photos were coming in as they got to the checkpoints. I was amazed. 100 kilometres is something that I had never fathomed possible. First of all I have a love hate relationship with walking. In the city, it's probably one of my least favourite things to do. After experiencing the speed and fun of skateboarding, inline skating and cycling, walking is… slow… and boring. However up north, walking is sometimes a means to get somewhere that is not accessible by car. Walking usually means adventure, not something routine like going to the store to grab groceries. Also, walking in Toronto never really required me to go further than 2-3 kilometres at a time. So seeing pictures of my friend embarking on a 100km challenge was mind boggling. The furthest I had ever gone unassisted by a motor was about 65km on my bicycle when I rode to Canada's Wonderland and back. Being the sucker for punishment that I am, and after being glued to my computer so I could see all the updates from my buddy's walk, I knew I had to try this.

Moon River Falls

It took a while, but after a few debates, we decided on Moon River Falls for our Canada day long weekend destination. We had tossed around ideas ranging from the campgrounds in the Adirondacks, to Algonquin. In the end though, finding something close to Toronto and free pointed us in the direction of Crown Land. Matthias and I dropped off my wife, daughter and my good buddy Benson at our insertion point to the forest, and we went to Moon Basin Marina to park the car. When we met up and started hauling our gear into the forest three things became painfully apparent. The horse files and mosquitos were out in full force, lugging enough beer for a long weekend is very heavy, and it was hot… very hot.

Nike Air Pegasus+ 27 GTX - First Impressions

I will be participating in the OXFAM 100k Trailwalker event this summer. I finally settled on the Nike Air Pegasus+ 27 GTX in mid February. I have been doing a lot of training in High Park and noticed that after about a month, the soles started separating from the shoe! I took them back to The Running Room where I purchased them, and they ordered a new pair for me. I was reassured that it was unusual that they fell apart like that. 

Oakley Flack Jacket XLJ Review

I'll admit that when I saw Travis Haley in the Dynamic Handgun video wearing the Oakley Flag Jackets it planted the seed. Over the years my eyes have betrayed me and degraded to the point that I need prescription glasses. I should mention that if I did not have vision benefits with my job I would have never dreamed of getting prescription Oakleys, but I was eligible, so I figured why not?

I own two pairs of non-prescription Oakley A-Frame goggles, and a pair of Frogskin sunglasses. So I'm used to playing Oakley prices. The reason I keep buying though, is because I really notice the difference in quality between Oakley and the competition. When it comes to comfort and optics for sports, I haven't seen a company that can beat them. 

ORC PCU Level 5 Pants - First Impressions

Not too long ago, a friend of mine sold me his ORC level 5 bottoms. I've been looking to grab a pair for a while, but every time I found a seller, I had to question whether or not I was getting two or three pairs for the price they were asking. Ordering directly from ORC is out of the question because they no longer produce any of the PCU line. The only items they have left in their inventory are the sizes that don't fit me. 

PCU Colour Comparison

One of the the things I find very frustrating about shopping for things online is that the colours you see in the photographs are usually a lot different than what shows up on your doorstep. And of course PCU is no exception. You figure that if companies list clothing as "Alpha Green" they would all be, you know, the same colour. Well, as you can see in the photo below, Alpha Green has many different flavours. 
Left to right: ORC lvl6, Patagonia lvl6, Propper lvl6, Beyond lvl5, ORC lvl5, Propper lvl5, Propper lvl4, ORC lvl4
To me, ORC's level 5 is the quintessential Alpha Green. ORC's MCU is fairly close, albeit super shiny, whereas their level 6 is very dark. Patagonia's Torrentshell, while I know isn't really part of the MARS line, is still listed as Alpha Green. In reality it's a lot closer to olive drab than anything else. What's really surprising is that Beyond Tactical's level 5 is significantly different than ORC's. They're both manufactured by EPICs so why they changed it is a mystery to me.

In the end though, it doesn't really matter. My set of level 6 is still waterproof even though they don't match. And let's be real, when you're biking down the street with level 5 top and bottom, people aren't thinking to themselves, "Wow! Look at how high speed that guy looks!" They're thinking, "What's up with that dude dressed like a Ghostbuster? Halloween is in like 5 months..."

As I collect more PCU, I'll take more pictures for comparison.

Go Home Lake

March 2012
44° 59' 43.4" N, 79° 50' 7.4" W

My camping buddy Matthias and I were planning on trying winter camping this year, but unfortunately winter never showed up. So I dragged my heels in regards to making any camping plans. Fortunately, when Matthias (being the proactive guy that he is) gave me a call and said that we had to do some March camping, I was down.

When we started looking, none of the Ontario Parks were fully open. Unfortunately for us, what Matthias found, after making a few calls, was that all of the Yurts were already reserved. We had success at Moon River in November, so we figured Crown Land camping would be a solid choice. And then we thought back to our last trip, and as fun as it was trying to find a suitable place for a tent in the dark, we decided to wake up early on a Saturday instead of driving up after work on a Friday.

ORC PCU level 4 - First Impressions

After doing a bit of digging around, I thought it might be interesting to check out the level 4 windshirt. I wasn't completely convinced that I needed one, or had any use for one, since the level 5 is also an excellent windshirt. Being the geardo that I am, though, I caved...and contacted ORC to place an order.

They have two windshirts available: the PCU (Block 0) version, and the MCU (Block 1) version. The PCU windshirt is made with the Epic Praetorian fabric by Nextec, has a half zip and is water resistant. The MCU is made with Ecology by Brookwood, has a full zip and is also water resistant. I liked the idea of having a full zip, which would make taking it on and off easier. As well, the introduction of ripstop was appealing, but after reading a review on the Military Morons site, I read that the finish on the MCU had almost a satin-like finish to it. I wasn't too interested in that, so I decided to order the PCU.

Blackhawk! PCU Level 5 - First Impressions

Ok ok, the Blackhawk! Warrior Wear Gen III level 5 Jacket, as far as I can tell is technically not PCU, it's from the ECWCS line. It just seems like the more I research PCU the more confusing things get. Both systems have seven layers, and are virtually the same as far as I can tell except for some extra velcro. Although the ECWCS system was developed in the 80s, Gen III ECWCS was not fielded until 2007, where as PCU was fielded in 2003. Having owned the ORC level 5 jacket, and now looking at the Blackhawk! level 5 jacket, I honestly think that the only major difference is the label. I may get some arguments about this one, but when it comes down to it, they are both softshell jackets made from Nextec's Epic fabric and have virtually all the same features. 

PCU Block 2 Update From Beyond Tactical

I had an interesting conversation with a rep at Beyond Tactical today while trying to get an update on my softshell. I had forwarded them the Protective Combat Uniform Block 2 preview article posted in January on Soldier Systems, and he said that his co-workers were very appreciative of the heads up. I then asked him if Beyond was going to be working on any of the new line of PCU.

Wanted! Goretex Trail Runners

This summer I plan on entering a few walking challenges. The OXFAM Trailwalker event, 100k within 48 hours, and the GoRuck Challenge, 15-20 miles with 6 bricks in a ruck with a crap load of push-ups, flutter kicks and a side order of getting wet and sandy. What drew me to these events was not that I think that I'm a good hiker or long distance walker. Quite the opposite, actually. I want to take part in these events because I'm actually terrible when it comes to walking and jogging long distances. It's going to suck, but it's my kind of suck.

Beyond Clothing PCU level 5 - First Impressions Part 1

Update - September 2016
This article has been updated with new information and photography.
Click here to see the new review.

As you might have read in some of my other articles, I had sadly lost my level 5 softshell. I have seen the Blackhawk! version of the level 5, but didn't really see any improvements over ORC's version; the possibility of finding a Patagonia level 5 was slim to none. I almost gave up hope until one of my buddies recommended Beyond Tactical's version of the level 5 jacket, called the Glacier Shock.

What really attracted me to Beyond was that you could customize the jacket to fit your needs. Zip off hood, roll up hood, permanent hood, no hood, pit zips, thumb loops, bicep pockets, velcro loop for the pockets, and best of all: the entire jacket is custom tailored to your body so it fits "perfectly".

PCU Level 6 Patagonia Torrentshell - First Impressions

In an effort to save a bit of money on transportation costs, AND to up my physical activity, I purchased a bicycle last spring. I had long been in the market for a waterproof hardshell, but it quickly became apparent that being outside everyday was going to require an accelerated purchase date.

The restrictive price of Goretex and, at the time, my lack of full-time employment really limited my choices. I had my eye on a few options, even though some were obviously way out of my price range: the ORC Industries level 6 jacket, Triple Aught Design Spectre Hardshell, Beyond Tactical Ridgeback, and Arc'teryx Alpha. Unfortunately the majority of these jackets were in the $500 range, and while the ORC hardshell was sub $100, my friends who have it all complain that its breathability is non-existent and it was waterproof only until you rubbed up against something.

PCU Buyer's Guide

If you are looking for a piece from the Protective Combat Uniform (PCU) system, this list is for you. I’ve included items that were part of the prototype phase (Block 0), all the way up to what is currently available commercially. Some items are not available anymore, but for completeness I’ve decided to keep them on the list for reference because they pop up on eBay from time to time. ReadyOne produces PCU, but unfortunately they do not sell to the public.

If you are interested in a background on PCU and a short history, please follow this link!

If you feel I've missed anything please comment below, and I'll be sure to update this list.

G-Shock DW-6600 Review

One of the things you should never have to think about before jumping in a lake or doing an aggressive bushwhacking adventure is whether or not your watch is going to fill with water or get caught on something and fall off. The G-Shock DW-6600 by Casio is a watch that hasn't let me down since I got it over two years ago.

I have a few other watches that have their place, for instance social or formal situations, but even though they are waterproof, I would never bring them camping or use them for sports. One has a strap made of nylon webbing, which absorbs sweat faster than a frat boy can chug a pint. At my desk one day, I was trying to pinpoint the source of a certain unnatural stench, only to discover in horror that it was my watch band. The other watch I have is metal, and has fairly sharp corners. I worry that if I fall suddenly and brace myself with my hand, I might gouge a hole in my wrist.

Steps Inc. PCU level 3 Fleece - First Impressions

I finally got my hands on the Steps Inc. Block 0 Half-zip pullover, PCU level 3 fleece (wow that was a mouthfull) over the holidays and am very impressed with it already. This is designed to be a mid layer for use in extreme cold during vigorous activity. If you are going to be static or taking it easy, it can be worn during mild days, or layered with a hard/softshell.

One of the things I noticed right off the bat was that the Polartec Thermal Pro fabric is really soft. My daughter immediately jumped on me and started nuzzling, and told me I was like a big teddy bear. She was right: it does feel similar to some of her stuffed animals. It will be interesting to see how soft it stays after a number of runs through the wash.

ITS Tactical Coiled Lanyard

I took a stab at the ITS Tactical coiled paracord lanyard over the Christmas holiday. I had actually tried this twice before with varying success.

On the first attempt, I used a regular-sized key coil, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get the paracord past the metal crimp. The second time through, I used a much thinner coil, but over time it really stretched out. I did not have any shrink tubing at the time, and I didn't burn the end of the paracord, so it didn't take long for it to turn into a frayed mess. Over the holiday, though, I figured I'd have some time to take another shot at the project.