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. 

Holding the pants in my hands, I immediately thought about how much I missed my old ORC level 5 jacket which I had lost. On the sides, above the hip zippers  are velcro straps that can be used to adjust the waist. As well there are webbing loops in the front and a back flap to allow for the use of suspenders. I don't really see a need for this unless you are wearing a duty belt, or if you have a climbing harness on. I know that wearing a belt on top of another belt can be very uncomfortable, but the velcro waist adjustments should be enough to keep your pants up without the use of a belt. The hip zippers would be great for accessing pant pockets under the level 5, but there is no real reason to be wearing pants under them because this level is meant to replace the BDU, not to be worn in conjunction with it. These zippers are better utilized to aid in taking the pants on and off, or to adjust BSTL issues. 


The thigh pockets are very generous and can accommodate pretty much anything you want to realistically shove in there. The actually remind me of the large pockets that are found on ACU pants. Starting at the knee and down to the cuff, are zippers that will allow you to take the pants on and off without taking your boots off. This might come in handy if you are caught in a downpour and need to slip on your level 6 pants. The level 5 pants are water resistant, but really only for a few minutes, and definitely not during a downpour. I've had these in the rain a few times, and it never takes long for the fabric to wet out. 

As I said before, there is no reason to wear pants under your level 5 bottoms. If you get into temperatures below -5°C, you could wear level 1 long underwear or the level 2 grid pants. Anything colder than -20°C, you're probably going to want level 7. I've taken these softshell pants on a few early spring hikes already and have been pleased with their performance. They do a decent job of cutting wind and are very light. When it gets a bit warmer in the summer I suspect that they might be too hot for hiking which is to be expected for a pant designed for cooler temperatures. I have my eye on the Arc'teryx Rampart pants and the Outdoor Research Equinox Convert pants to fill that gap. The OR pants have the ability to convert to shorts when the temperature goes up. If the PCU system has taught me anything, it's that quick modularity and adaptability are key. 

The hip pockets have a mesh bottom that will help hot and humid air from escaping the inside of the pants. One nice feature is that there are two loops of webbing at the cuffs of the pants. I've used shock cord and sometimes 550 to loop around the bottom of my boots to prevent my pants from sliding up. This eliminates the need for gaiters if you need them for keeping debris out of your boots. Even though the Epic fabric is not waterproof, it does a decent job of repelling water so they will keep your feet a little dryer if you are splashing around in puddles.


  1. Enjoyed the details in your PCU pants review; cheers

  2. Hi there.

    Are this Level 5 true to size? I have a Gen II without the black trim on the legs and they seem to be very small in size. I also have a Gen III Level 5 in digital ACU Camo, both in size Medium Long, and the there`s a huuge difference in sizes! The ACU one is a very loose fit and seem to be more big in size. Do you know the difference between yours from Orc and my Gen II? Seem to be the same color and fabric, only different name i Guess. Been told that mine is Patagonia and Yours With the black trim is Orc Industries...? Will also say i am a Medium/ long in BDU and other tactical pants. But i`m confused about this one, i`m gonna buy a pair on Ebay and really don`t know if i should buy Medium long or Large regular. That goes for the jackets as well. Both Level 4 and 5... and maybe 3 as well :-) And now Beyond is on the market as well, what to do!? Keep up the good blog. I am the same as you, love military and tactical clothing..

    P.S: What kind of Merrel boots is that?

  3. No, the Level 5 is not true to size. I have found that ORC level 5 in alpha green, fits small across the board. I have seen the small, medium, and large. I am 5'10" and have a 32" waist. I have to wear a Large level 5 pant. The medium is too small. My bdu size is Medium/Regular so take that into consideration when picking up a pair. If you have the ACU version from ORC, to the best of my knowledge those are still Block 0, or gen 1 if you want to categorize them that way. However if you are calling them Gen III, I would imagine you actually have the softshell pants from the ECWCS system, not the PCU system. Really though, they are very similar.

    Beyond has been around for a while now, as far as PCU goes. And the last I heard Richard Elder, the guy that helped design PCU is now working for Beyond. I own their level 5 softshell jacket and have done a review if you want to check it out. The Epic Glacier fabric Beyond used is different than the Epic fabric that ORC used. I have noticed that the Glacier fabric that Beyond uses has a tendency to pill which is kind of annoying. I know a bunch of other people that have the same problem, but the performance of the jacket is still there. It just doesn't look so hot is some areas.

    Check out my history of PCU write up to learn a bit more about the system if you are interested. ORC makes items from block 0, Beyond makes items from block 1. There is block 2 PCU floating out there on ebay which is the only way you'll get your hands on it. Purchasing it directly from the manufacturers won't work... I've tried hahaha

    Thanks for visiting!
    The boots are Merrel Sawtooths

  4. Yes, after i`ve googled my ass off today i found out that my ACU softshell is of course ECWCS. Kind of like the old PCU instead of the new Beyond, simply because of the color. I think the old Alpha green look badass, as for the performance they probably is the same (ish) But as more i dive into these clothes, the less i figure out... it`s so many different. I think i found 3 different Level 3 so far.. :-) Thanks for the help, i will buy the Large size... love the boots!

  5. Yup, there are tons of different companies that make PCU, I did a buyer's guide a while back. Some of the links don't work anymore, and it's not really a complete list, but this should give you an idea of what's out there. http://ontariogeardo.blogspot.ca/2011/12/pcu-buyers-guide.html Good luck!

    1. ok, gonna check out. Thanks for the help :-)

  6. I see that you said the pants run small - Would you say the same for the ORC level 5 jacket?

    1. No, the Level 5 Jacket ran true sizing for me. I usually wear a Medium/Regular and a Medium fit me just fine. Hope that helps! If you have any other questions, feel free to let er rip!

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