UF PRO STRIKER XT Evaluation
by Eliran Feilboy, Project Gecko
Welcome to my second part of the UF PRO Striker XT combat uniform evaluation. In part 2, I am going to dress the Striker XT pants.
But first, lets go back in time...just a little bit. During my service we used different types of pants, normally the American uniform, but most of the time we used the standard IDF pants with hand made modifications (velcros, etc).
During one of our final phases, we had to perform a 'lone wolf' navigation exercise which consisted of around 45-55% body weight and only 2 hours per day looking into your map. Yes, we were not allowed to do the actual navigation with maps at hand and no, there was no GPS. It´s all about stars and memorizing your route. We normally call this navigation the ''Sea to Sea'' navigation. We basically started on Acre shore (west coast line of Israel ) and the extraction (ending point) LZ was the Sea of Galilee. Soon as I reached it, my officer canceled under a specific scenario and I received 1 hour to climb-with the entire equipment–to the LZ on its top.
Its also important to set a few remarks. During specific topographic points, there was a team of graduated soldiers which had to 'hunt' us with thermal equipment, making this whole party even harder towards maintaining a good grade. The results of this entire phase effects directly your ability to continue to the final phases of the qualification.
The whole story is interesting, but I want to get to the point. Two things effected my performance that 3 critical days - Gear & knowledge. See, the pants I used were typical IDF pants. Not so far in their material from the German issued pants. The IDF pants are ok, they can be comfortable under 'regular' use, and can sustain some damage. However, for me the problem always was the flexibility & efficiency.
Lets go quick through the problems (equipment related) I faced during that 3 days.
- -breathing capability
- -weak belt rings
- -knee protection
Ok, I´m not going to write the obvious but – the stretch material in this pants is beyond just stretch. It´s a really living existence, which allows you to do things better. Simply as that – special as that. I already used a few stretch trendy pants, most got ripped or just failed to deliver flexibility once soak with water \sweat. Thing is, the Striker XT really offers you flexibility, and not only that, the butt stock is really comfortable. I did had a chance to hear to hear people complain over the ''too much lack of concealment on the ass piece''. Since 99% of those reading this are not black ops,and even than, thats not really a problem. The part of your ass is a part that often is irregular. Why? We all know why, especially the gifted ones among us. Having an elastic butt stock which fits and receives 100% original shape of your body is just incredible. This is great for many activity’s. From climbing to rappelling, parachuting or sitting in a DPV\SOV for 72hours desert patrol.
Normal BDU pants can turn into a cage when made out of a bad material. Especially when you head wet & sand into the equation. Therefore having this kind of stretch material is a clear up to date advantage.
Another aspect, which I find great. During stealth movement, the areas in your pants that provides noise, are often the pelvis and the knees. The stretch material in the Striker XT significantly reduces the amount of noise the pants produce. Another great advantage.
''Through ice & fire''
During the trip to the Alps, as mentioned in the previous part we went trough tons of rain, water & dirt.
As approaching the 2000m above sea level, the temperatures started to drop, add the wind blows on the ridge and you got a bit of ice. Personally, the stretch material kept serving me well, even when it was completely fucked up by the weather. The feeling I had, was equal to wearing a good glove. Fits comfortable, and is simply...there.
Lets go through the different pockets on the Striker XT.
The thigh pockets
Such big pockets are nothing rare or special in the industry today. But I will tell you why this pockets are great. During our trip to the Alps I used one of my leg drop Admin kit. Inside I had really a lot of items. From maps to markers, compass, mufti-tool, grenade, survival kit and extra 5.56 mag. And even a small tuna can (don´t ask, it was a dire situation up there). With all of those things packed rather tight inside, and placed on my left thigh – I lose my left thigh pocket...normally.
Well guess what, I didn’t really lose that pocket. Well indeed, I can´t really have a 100% clean access to eat, but thanks to the side zipper, I could still put inside rather small or flat items, such as a map, pills, and small documents. Indeed I lost 70% carrying capability by putting a drop leg pouch...but still – I could use that pocket. In other pants this is something you can forget about. Now that was the most extreme situation, you can say. What about Holsters ? So I tried a holster, and had no issue reaching some 2 pistol magazines (p8) inside, though of course, pulling them in & out is not really the quickest, but those who know the size of the P8 magazines...would clearly recognize the benefits here.
If it´s still not convincing you to have two possibilities to enter the pockets – then read this. When sitting down or leaning, often opening the pockets is nothing, but a very annoying thing, and often a gateway for losing things in the field ( a big sin in the IDF). Specially with tons of equipment that also limits your 'near' vision (belt, waist pockets, etc). So when you have another possibility & capability to both access and actually see the pocket and it´s inside while siting or leaning, it is a great thing to have, which is not also improving your comfort, but also ensuring the safety of your items.
This is another indication of the way of thinking by UF PRO. This little detail of maximum of access, EVEN if something by default covers the pocket, shows that someone, somewhere in UF PRO lair – knows what he is doing!
The Tab' pocket
Ok, this pocket I used less, out of the simple fact that I don´t carry really phones in the field. However, I found this pocket quite interesting. You can still benefit from it for many items. From a multi-tool (leather man) to a P8 magazine. I find the use of a magazine in this type of pocket as a nice advantage, specially for the LE personal. Since this 'tab pocket' consist of no zipper or velcros, its opening makes it extremely quiet, and even fast! This kind of capability is great in some specific environments.
But I want to focus on something else that I tried out. Out of my experience, there are 3 things I must have on my combat equipment, doesn’t matter what. A bandage, a tourniquet...and an airway. Why? Experience taught me, that airway can save lives, simple. For me the three things mentioned above must be very accessible, and also easy to remember upon utility memory. So I tried inserting, and actually to spend a day with the airway in my pocket during one of our CQB courses. I have to say that it was great. Unlike I was thinking, the airway did not fell or drooped. I really liked it.
*Do note – locating the airway in this compartment is not the best option, due to some airways are being made of a non shock resistance material, which can result in their immediate break under pressure.
The center pocket \ Knife pocket
This pocket is located more on the center \ front of each leg piece. The pocket is relative simple. Again no velcro \ zipper. The pocket is very, very good for knifes, multi tools...and pistol magazines!
I´m not a big fan of things that can fall off or giving me the feeling of 'losing things behind', but this pocket can hold pistol magazines really good! I personally used the P8 & Sig-Sauer 226 magazines – and each magazine fitted it perfectly ! A great plus for a quick reload or even just for having a fast access to your magazine during range time...
Regarding knifes in this pocket – I am not a fan of having a knife flying around in my pocket. Doesn’t matter how secured or how many fail safes it or I have. But this pocket allows you to isolate and really 'fix' its position, resulting in two capability – the first & obvious, a good & secure compartment and second, a clear and easy to remember storage location. Professionals who work on their utility memory muscle (some of us really do it) will find this as a great and comfortable feature.
Lower leg pocket
A very good simple pocket. Another way of getting the maximum out of the pants. Personally I find it really good for storing first aid bandages (Israeli bandage). In fact, this pocket is big enough to contain the OLAES Modular bandage. You could also store in this pocket your small emergency\survival kit. I tried it also – it fits in, and you don’t feel it.
Double belt loops
Well this is another great thinking by UF PRO. Technically, there are two belt rings circles. The first circle is the normal belt ring, which allows your belt to go through it. The second circle is basically made of loops which can be opened or closed with a button. I found it extremely useful when I wanted to mount during a training a small thin version of a 'battle belt'. All I needed to do is to close those rings around the belt and that’s it, tight, secured and ready to go...this is very useful for the widely used duty belts (which most gouvernment organizations use). What I personally really liked in the way UF PRO made this loops, was the operational thinking of those 'buttons' in each loops.
See, most company’s would simply place the button, and making it visible,that’s it. But not here by concealing the external button texture the Striker XT maintains a perfect concealment capability, even in the small details, call me a whiner – but this kind of 'metal' buttons can wear off their color and reflect sun light (!).
Zippers in the Striker XT pants.
I find the zippers outstanding. For sometime we all wondered what is smarter & 'operationally correct' to have, buttons, velcros or zippers ? Each has its thing, but the UF PRO zippers and their tabs are just great. First of all, in order to 'conceal' those zipper lines, there’s an extra 'cover' made above it. I know it is not nothing revolutionary, but there are a lot of tactical company’s who do not do that. They just put a zipper,just like in flight suits, and that all. The fact that this zippers are not to long, or with anything that can get stuck any where in the forest for example – makes it a big positive thing for me.this is great this zippers will not get stuck in nothing.
The pipe zipper
Ok, ladies – this is not for you. What I extremely like,and it was also the first thing I have seen, was the ability to open the pelvis zipper in both directions, means if you got a heavy holster \drop leg pouch, which normally puts some weight on the pants, you can open the pelvis from the other direction without using the waist balance. Great for quick release....awesome !
The Width-adjustable feature
Another favorite part.....Each part of the pants has within its lower part, just above the boots – a small pocket. This pocket contains a shock cord with a clips that can control how tight or lose you want the pants to be in that area. This is really great out of few reasons. The first one, is that many LE organizations, and even military’s having a dress code that requires you to 'lock' your pants above the boots the second reason is more operational – the idea of keeping the area of the lower leg literally isolated from the outside world is really great, not always..but mostly. Imagine this – laying down in a forest for 24 hours. Ton of bugs and tics....normally, since you will be concealed and well covered..those bugs often 'infiltrating' under your cloths either from the waist between the pants \ shirt or from your hills. This little bugs can make a simple task as laying & 'watching' a nightmare.
It´s also a great way to make sure that that part of the pants, will be really closed without using things such as Rubber band or so which can get easily off or lost.
The fact that this compartment, is closed by a zipper, the shock cord is fixed by a velcro – makes it highly efficient, smart and also durable, making sure that nothing will get in your way or limits you, while in the same time it will still remaining comfortable. The whole design of this pocket once again shows the very micro detail that UF PRO is playing with.
So like many modern combat pants, this pants are coming along with integrated knee pads. The knee pad system (yes it deserves the title system) in the pants is outstanding. The knee pad section is divided into two compartments.
External – #For maximum hard protection against solid stuff.
Interior – #Second protection, and more soft for the knee itself.
This combination of two layers is superior. It gives us more freedom for adding\decreasing a protection capability, and maximizing the efficiency of the protection. But what is really unique here is the 150%, flexibility by the protection layers. I used two types supplied by UF PRO
The Solid- Protectors & the softer Flex- SAS-TEC Protectors.
The combination of both flexibility & maximum protection against sharp objects, such as rocks in green side or pieces of glass, or sharp metal objects in urban environment for example, is a huge advantage which many knee pads simply won´t give you.
Freedom of access
What I liked with those compartments is the freedom of access. I can access both compartments relatively easy. The only thinking that stands in my way is either a zipper or a velcro. Both are designed in a way which is more reachable and easier for extracting, unlike the crye-knee pads for example.
Speaking out of experience, sometimes there are injuries that requires full access to the knee for putting a bandage, splinter for example. When it is so crucial, we can just cut it of course, but what about minor injuries, such as a twisted knee? Where a improvised splint is required, an easy access to your body parts is highly important. The Striker XT offers such a freedom of access, that I can easily remove the protectors off my knee, and apply a splint around my knee or anything else that´s needed.
'Operational efficiency' #1
One of the things I like in the design of the StrikerXT is the rather soft finish, unlike many modern combat pants. This kind of finish is giving the end user the ability to remain quiet.
''What does quiet has to do with it ?''
When you move in a very rocky environment, or an Urban environment, where the surface is strong & solid, every knee or movement on the ''plastic'' piece will produce noise. In my unit, we took this issue very serious. Again it might sound like being bitchy, but it was a major point. We used to tape a thick sponge material on the top of our knee pads to prevent the knee pads plastic cover from making any contact while crawling, kneeling or just leaning against something, as it will make noise.
'Operational efficiency' #2
Since we are already talking about flexible movements – the design of the knees allows you to really perform a way beyond any normal BDU or other tactical pants. The design of the knee protection is outstanding. While standing, the majority of the knee, and beyond is still protected. Unlike the crye version, you can make it tighter with a velcro, which obviously at a first glance might look weird or less effective, but if you choose the precise size (thanks to my wife), than you will get a maximum protection.
Back to the point, when kneeling down, the knee protection section receives it´s shape, which provides an outstanding protection, but still don´t get in your way when your elbow leans against your knee.
Most people, doesn’t know much about the individual skill, but when shooting from a kneeling position, it is very important that the elbow won´t meet the knee. Its either you lean it in front or behind the knee. Why ? Many reasons, but the main reason is to prevent the unstable grip, whichis normally caused by the slippery surface of the common ''plastic'' pads.
The flexibility of the protection layers them self is also remarkable. I mean damn it. Look on it, the first layer, as can be seen, can receive different angles of shape, which anyway are beyond the common angles. The second layer is also very, very flexible. I found it extremely comfortable during proning. Back in my service, as a sniper, I felt very uncomfortable with the casual knee pads. While laying down for 48-72 hours in an observation mission, the feeling was like I have a hill between my feets & the lower back since the knee pad normally was 'lifting' up a bit my knee, something you feel after 3 hours. But the UF PRO protection layers had the ability to adopt the elevation & pressure, and to remain comfortable.
This is something personally that was a bit uncomfortable. The pads I received were not soft enough, now I know that some people like it soft and some doesn’t really feel it – but as someone that carries a lot, and also, like any other soldier after a couple of years I have a 90 years old grandpa knees, it is crucial for me to have some kind of a bit thicker pads. Since the compartment is easily reachable, as mentioned above – you can just cut a good sponge \ any soft material and insert it.
Unlike many knee protection sets I used in my life, the clear advantage here is the breathing capability. You can walk for 12 hours, and the area around your knee will still feel comfortable.
- Creative - The quiet pockets,the ''V'' shape cut and other features in this pants are new, or improved, i mean really improved.
- Efficient - Definitely. integrated two outstanding protection layers that will make sure your knees are safe - under any angle or pressure.aside the knee protection, the layout of the pockets,its quality and positioning of the access point gives us a simple way, to ''communicate'' with this pants. no bullshit, just functionality - LIKE !
- Durable - Very durable. i used it through rain,rocks,sweat...The green zone print was just fine - no fading. i was crawling, and rubbing this equipment so much - no rips.
- Comfortable - More than just very.
- Innovative - Definitely....once again we can see how micro leveled UF PRO way of doing things is.
After finishing the total evaluation of the Striker Xt pants, i can say that i am more than happy to have the privilege to test such a magnificant peice of equipment. personally i am going to follow UF PRO's work in the future. im convinced, that if they will keep the same level and mindset - it will be interesting, very interesting.
If you never heard of UF PRO, check their website out NOW ! www.ufpro.si
Thank you for reading,