ORC PCU Level 6 Pants - Review

I suppose it was only a matter of time before I did a review on a product that I didn’t like, but I think I’m getting ahead of myself. When I was first introduced to PCU, the only piece I knew about was the ORC level 5 softshell. Besides some RAID modded BDU’s they were the first jackets that I had ever seen with velcro pockets on the biceps. After I wrapped my head around the idea of what a softshell was for, I picked one up and fell in love. I needed more. I called ORC and was surprised when the answered their phone, "O.R.C. Industries, how can I help you?”. Wait a second… I had been calling them Orc all this time, like the green dudes that were chasing around the hobbits. I brushed it off like I knew their name was pronounced like an acronym the entire time and let them know I wanted a pair of their level 6 pants.



I had read the reviews and had heard the warnings from my buddies. The pants were meant for static use, and when they show up from ORC, they are going to stink. Hyperbole I figured, why would they make a pair of pants for the US Special Forces if you couldn’t run around in them? And how badly could they stink? Well, it turns out they could stink quite a bit, but for whatever reason that didn’t really bother me.

The first chance I got to test them was a rain/sleet storm during a 12km bike ride into work. I was pleased to see the water beading off my legs and didn’t notice it getting muggy on the inside of my pants. I suppose however that it is because it was hovering around 0°C (32°F). After about 30 minutes however I noticed my groin starting to feel wet. The fly’s zipper was not waterproof and because I was essentially in a sitting position, the crotch of the pants was collecting water. It had nowhere to go, so it went through the teeth of the zipper and soaked me down to my knees. I was lucky that when I got into work people were more focused on letting me know how crazy I was for cycling in, than the fact that that it looked like I had pissed myself.

Same attachment points for suspenders like the ORC level 5 pants.
The good old Black Beard logo, and a closer look at some of the seam tape. Arc'teryx craftsmanship, this is not.
In some respects, riding a bike was not a “true” test of the level 6 pants, as they are not designed for cycling, but I still think it highlighted an inherent problem with the pants. So on another day I took them camping during a trip where it did nothing but rain. During the hike in it rained, we set up in the rain, cooked and sat around in the rain, and we hiked out in the rain. Three days later, I was happy to be able to say that it was a huge success! I was dry, and didn’t overheat! It all went downhill from there though.

That trip happened in the spring when it was still pretty cold. As I used the level 6 pants in the summer and into the fall, I noticed that I was overheating, and sweat would get trapped on the inside of the pants and even wet out my inner layers depending on how long I stayed outside exercising. Over time, the DWR wore off and no matter how many times I treated the pants with Nikwax, the water seemed to always find its way into the pants.

When winter rolled around again, I had already given up and purchased a pair of Propper level 6 Goretex pants, but figured it was still worth testing from time to time. I found that they continued to collect condensation on the inside of the pants, and if slush got kicked up onto my pants, they would leak after a few minutes.

I didn't take it easy on these pants, but I wasn't especially hard on them either.
As you can see, the seam tape across the groin is toast. 
I had a hard time finding a use for the ORC level 6. They weren’t waterproof. I wouldn’t use them as a wind pant because the level 5 does a good job of that already. At this point I’d say they are equally effective as being water resistant for a period long enough to get my Goretex on. So really, what are my ORC level 6 pants good for? Nothing really. I suspect since the ORC pants were part of the Block 0 project, and considering we are now on block 2, the feedback was received and everyone agreed that Goretex was the way to go. The only reason to buy the ORC version in my opinion is if you are a collector, as there is no practical use for the pants. If you are in the market for PCU level 6 pants, there are many other great options out there from Beyond Clothing to Patagonia. With all that said though, even though the only time I wear them is when I accidentally pick them up thinking they are my Goretex pants, the collector in me won’t let me sell them.

2 comments:

  1. Haha I also made the mistake of thinking they were pronounced Orc Industries. When I called them, I said "Hello, is this Orc Industries?" and the lady quickly and bluntly corrected me, "O.R.C. Industries, how may I help you?"

    Anyways, I have the Level 6 set myself, and yes they suck. I wore them on a snowboarding trip at Tahoe with an ex GF last year. As someone that never snowboarded before in my life, I was constantly landing on my ass, sliding down the slope. The trousers and jacket stood up to that abuse just fine. However, after the day was done I was drenched in sweat. I know the ORC L6 is meant for static duty but I was testing them myself and I didn't have my L5 sets yet.

    Back home, the smell was bad, so I threw the set into the washer. I had a great experience with my USMC issued Gore-Tex sets, both woodland and desert variants. They can be laundered no problem, so I assumed the ORC L6 would be similar. After the wash cycle was done, the seam tapes were peeling off like in your pics. The jacket even ripped a little in one spot. Disappointed I spent about $100 for Mod 0 junk.

    Thank you for the excellent review, your experience with the ORC L6 is similar to mine, but Im amazed how the seam tapes are coming apart just from use in your case. For mine, I've debated whether to pay about $100 to repair them, use them for dirty wet work until they fall apart or trash them.

    Semper Fi

    LT

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    1. Thanks for sharing! I was lucky enough to visit Tahoe last year, but it was during the summer, and spent the day at the lake.

      If I were you, I wouldn't spend any money to fix those pants up. Even if you manage to fix the seam taping, they are going to continue to be unbreathable, and they will continue to collect sweat on the inside almost defeating the purpose of wearing waterproof pants in the first place. Save that $100 and put it towards some GORETEX.

      Thanks for visiting!
      Mike

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