The Gear Journal

Stretch

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I’ve been a life-long Levi guy. I’ve always just felt most comfortable in jeans and the 501 and 511 have been my go-to since, well… since my mom was buying them for me.

During the pandemic, however, I found myself wearing sweat pants a lot. I had no place to go, so no reason to put on shoes and if you aren’t gonna throw on some Js, why bother with pants?

I guess I just sort of grew into the comfortability as the idea of putting on jeans just hasn’t been appealing to me. Then, a pal recommended I try a pair of Western Rise pants. Essentially, these are “tech pants” with 4-way stretch, a gusseted crotch, and cut similar to my favorite Levis.

I instantly fell in love with the pair I got for Christmas and started experimenting with other cuts and other manufacturers. Here’s a run down:

  1. Western Rise Diversion. These are the first pair I got and they are made from my favorite material. These have a similar weight to your typical jean, but they have a good amount of stretch to them and the gusseted crotch gives you a ton of room. My only complaint? They are just a tad too slim for me. One the flip side though, I think these might be more durable than even denim?
  2. Western Rise Evolution. These have a more relaxed fit (almost identical to the 501) than the Diversion, but they are made of a thinner material. In Austin, I think these are going to be fantastic in the summer time… Stretch is on par with the Diversion and comfort is incredible.
  3. Du/er field pant. I got these on sale from REI and they are amazing… Cut like a traditional VietNam era field pant, but with stretch for days (the most I’ve had). You can’t beat the comfort and they seem to be pretty durable as well? I’d guess the weight is somewhere between the Diversion and the Evolution.

(Editor’s Note: Du/er makes a popular denim with stretch. I’ve yet to try them, but certainly plan too and will report back.)

In any regard, if you are like I was and stuck on obsolete materials just out of habit, give some of these modern tech materials a try. I’m actually really glad I did. I feel like I have a pant more comfortable than my old jeans, just as durable, and made more responsibly.

Bunny Boots

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We just got through the biggest and coldest winter storm to ever hit Austin, Texas. We saw temps as low as 3-degrees, went days without power, and still don’t have water after my lab/office was flooded by a frozen pipe.

Inspired by this misery, I decided to research the best winter boot ever made. According to most, it’s the Bunny Boot – military issued footwear that uses air between a layer of rubber and wool to insulate your feet.

Apparently, they are reasonably comfortable, crazy warm, and last forever.

Details here.

Poncho

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Over Quarantine, my wife and I did a strange sort of experiment with Instagram ads. A typical experience would go like this:

A targeted ad would appear on our feeds with an uncanny accuracy towards current conversation and/or needs. For me, these ads routinely feel like something YETI would produce – highly polished photography that touted a lifestyle more than any one product.

For shits and giggles, I started ordering some of these products for review. Almost without fail, something from China would show up in the mail (weeks later) that was a sort of cheap shadow of the product featured in the ad. A great example of this is the “Official Toolroll.” The website make this tool roll appear as though it’s ready for anything you can throw at it, right?

In reality, it’s cheap canvas with sloppy stitching and some of the worst zippers I’ve EVER seen. Further, the product sent isn’t even close to the product featured on the website – missing details, dimension, and reinforcements all around.

This experience has repeated itself a number of times across a number of different product categories.


Fast forward a couple of weeks and I was greeted by a similar ad from a company called Poncho. Like Yeti, the company is based in Austin and even their logo feels a bit like the outdoor flagship. Again, lifestyle over product. Rather than waste my money, I decided to challenge them to a review. They accepted and two shirts arrived days later.

I got the Nighthawk and the Brazos, but for the purposes of this review I will focus on the former. The Nighthawk is made of a relatively thin material that feels a bit like flannel that has had a clean shave. Unlike traditional flannel, however, this material has good bit of stretch to it and a ton of memory. Not bad.

Moving on to detail work, the stitching is good. I’m no seamstress, but there were no loose ends anywhere to be found and from a craftsmanship standpoint, everything seemed to be on point and well made. Again, no complaints.

At this point, it feels as though I’ve got a decently built shirt made in Vietnam (one of the better countries of origin for soft goods) and appropriately priced at around $85. How does it wear though?

I’m 6’2″ and 190-pounds. I was sent a size large in a regular fit (slim fit is also available). The cut is perfectly tailored to my size and the shirt wears really well. I immediately liked the drape and felt comfortable with how I looked.

However, it wasn’t until I wore the shirt day-to-day that I realized how good this thing really is. This seems odd to say about a button-down flannel, but it’s innovative. There’s built-in storage for your sunglasses, a built-in lense cleaning cloth, magnetic pocket flaps and my absolute favorite – a hidden and zippered chest pocket.

To test wearability, I wore this thing for three days straight and then threw it into the laundry. While in the laundry, I must have dropped my phone three times trying to stash it in the hidden chest pocket that isn’t featured on my edc t-shirt. It’s just one of those features that you get used to and wonder how you ever lived without.

And once out of the laundry, the shirt felt just as it did before the wash. Additionally, this thing doesn’t seem to wrinkle… at all? I’ve yet to pack it for any trips obviously, but I don’t think it will be a problem.

Faults? None really. The magnets used on the pocket flaps initially seemed too weak to me, but they’ve proven to work just fine. And materials combed with spandex for the stretch properties often leave you with weird structure issues after a period of time. I don’t think that will be an issue here as it’s made of only 1% spandex and thus far, the memory properties have been great.

All and all, Poncho completely blew my Instagram advertising conspiracy theory out of the water. I’m a full on converted fan of a company that makes “fishing shirts” for the outdoorsman… and I don’t even fish.

More details on their offerings here.

(Editor’s Note: I was given these shirts for Free. However, I reviewed them without consequence and later this morning, I will be buying my own. In short, these things are dope… For real.)

American Giant Slub Tee

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American Giant makes the best zippered hoodie in the world. That much has been established. They also used to make my favorite t-shirt in the world as well, but for some reason they stopped manufacturing their “Premium Heavyweight Tee” and replaced it with what they call the “Premium Slub Tee.”

Every year for years, I have ordered four of their tees to replace those that have been beat up while working in the shop. Not knowing where to go or what to do this year, I decided to just try the new “Slub” tee.

Thoughts? It’s still very, very good… but it’s not as good as the old t-shirt it replaced. It’s not as thick, it’s not as detailed from a craftsmanship or materials standpoint, and well… while it’s still the best tee that I know of, it’s no longer so great that I will refuse to try other options.

Details.

Underpants Update

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So remember when artificial intelligence recommended that I try Saxx underpants? Well, I spent almost $60 on two pair.

Holy hell y’all… Artificial intelligence is intelligent. I can’t even tell that I have any underpants on at all. It’s like free falling through an expensive cloud of happiness. I am sold.

Get yours here. (Not a sponsor… I’m not paid… by anyone)

Aer Mask

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So, it looks like this whole face mask thing is gonna be around a while… I’ve hesitated from buying anything too substantial as a sort of mental exercise – thinking maybe positive thinking would help as much as the $5 mask I was wearing.

It didn’t. Obviously.

So, I’ve bought my first non-disposable mask. I read a research paper on the benefits of ripstop as a filter. Apparently two layers of the tight weave stuff is almost as effective as a medical grade mask and far more comfortable.

Enter Aer. It is comfortable… I hope it’s working.

Details.

The M65 Field Jacket

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For well over a decade, I’ve used an M-65 Field Jacket as my cold weather outer layer. If it’s super cold (rare in Texas and Hawaii), I will add an issued “cold weather liner” and call it good.

I think I paid $100 for my M-65 (with liner) at a surplus store some 12 years ago. It’s still in perfectly useable condition and I can’t argue with the value.

It does, however, come with some draw backs. For one, the M-65 does not come with a modern fit. It’s boxy… because, well… it had to fit every body type in the military. But also, it uses outdated materials. So, it’s heavy and not very wet weather resistant.

Proof just introduced their modern version of the M-65 that they are calling the Highlander. It features a more modern fit and materials that are both water resistant and have a little stretch. I think it’s rad.

Check it out.

Saxx

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Working on a piece of software that essentially polls sources like reddit, forums, and other non-retail sites that tend to collect honest and objective reviews. Using unmentionables as a test subject, I can now objectively say that the highest reviewed underwear on the internet comes from a company called Saxx.

And I have to admit, I’m tempted to blow $25 just to see how good these actually are.

Details.