Category Archives: Uniform

The evil, black uniform of the day

The Equilibrium Family

Like a batch of relatives showing up for a holiday gathering, the Equilibrium (EQ) family of mid-layers from Triple Aught Design (TAD) showed up on our doorstep the day before Christmas … just in time for some nasty weather.

If you’re not familiar with TAD’s Equilibrium jacket, vest and hoodie, they are key components of TAD’s mid-layer collection heralding “active insulation, moisture management and packability.”

The EQ’s Polartec Alpha insulating material is an advanced, breathable insulation technology claiming to work during both rest and periods of activity.

Moisutre management across the EQ family is delivered through a stretch nylon shell with Schoeller’s 3XDRY textile finishing technology that proclaims, “dry on the outside, dry on the inside, dry in a flash.”

Finally, the EQ family of mid-layers is compressible, easily-layered and storable in small spaces. Each member of the family sports a rear hunter’s pocket to be used as a stuff sack.

For this review, we utilized three product testers.

About the product testers:

Tester #1: EQ jacket and vest – active daily wear in a light physical work environment

Tester #2: EQ hoodie – school wear with the need to wear the jacket both indoors and outdoors

Tester #3: EQ jacket – active daily wear in a law enforcement environment (under body armor carrier)

Testing

To determine the EQ’s ability to deliver on its three primary promises (insulation, moisture management and packability), we tested the EQ for warmth as an outer layer in temperatures as low as 15°F. We tested the EQ for warmth as a mid-layer in temperatures as low as -8°F. We tested the EQ for comfort and moisture retention in normal indoor temperatures while performing activities like climbing multiple flights of steps. We tested the EQ for wind and precipitation resistance in winds up to 30 MPH and in light snow and freezing mist. Finally, we tested the EQ’s packability by stowing it within its pocket and carrying it in a backpack for the better part of a day. We repeated this test several times.

Findings

The EQ family of mid-layers provide excellent insulation when worn under a soft shell, hard shell or other outer layer garment such as the TAD Talisman jacket. When compared to only the outer layer in the same conditions, comfort and warmth increased significantly. The EQ jackets (and vest) certainly rank near the top of the list of the mid-layers we have tested over the years in their ability to insulate without adding considerable weight.

As one might expect, the EQ vest leaves the wearer’s arms exposed providing less insulation than the jacket and hoodie. We found the EQ vest worked very well with the TAD Talisman in temperatures down to about 20°F. Below this temperature, the Talisman lacked sufficient inherent insulation to keep the wearer’s arms comfortable. When combined with the EQ jacket, however, the Talisman-EQ combination kept the wearer comfortably warm at temperatures approaching 0°F as long as winds were not too much of a factor. When combined with a quality soft shell, with excellent wind resistance, wearers were comfortable even with relatively high winds.

When worn alone (no outer layer), the EQ jacket and hoodie provided adequate warmth down to about 25°F if the wearer was active (at least a brisk walk).

We did notice that the EQ’s ability to provide insulation was decreased slightly after being packed for some time. This is fairly typical of similarly-insulated items and was easily rectified with a quick fluff in the dryer on the cool temperature setting. We have found that this is often necessary with items like synthetically-insulated sleeping bags.

We found the EQ’s moisture resistance to be adequate for a garment designed to be a mid-layer. In light snow and freezing mist conditions, wearers remained dry after as much as 30 minutes out in the elements. Beyond this, it would be reasonable to add an outer layer with more advanced moisture resisting characteristics. However, the light precipitation described essentially beaded up and rolled off of the EQ.

The EQ’s breathability and adaptability exceeded our expectations. As mentioned, one of our testers frequently wore the EQ hoodie inside his school building. He noted that the only time he felt the need to remove the hoodie was when he was involved in a mildly strenuous activity (more than climbing a few flights of stairs). This same wearer also utilized the EQ hoodie as his only outer garment when walking home from school in temperatures as low as 10°F. He noted some discomfort below 25°F, however, and also noted that the hood provided very little warmth or protection against wind. The hood does not fit tightly around the head allowing wind in the front to reach the wearer’s ears quite easily.

As for packability, once the wearer is familiar with the procedure to stuff the EQ into its pocket, it is quite convenient to be able to put the EQ into a small backpack with other items or even into a large cargo pocket. As noted above, long-term stuffing compresses the Alpha insulating material reducing its ability to provide insulation.

One factor not touted by TAD in their marketing materials for the EQ is durability. Normally, one would expect a nylon mid-layer to be somewhat “fragile.” That appears not to be the case with the EQ family. One of our testers wore his EQ jacket under his Cordura body armor carrier daily for several weeks. Surprisingly, the EQ jacket showed no real signs of wear. Our tester did snag the sleeve on a thorny plant but one can hardly expect a nylon mid-layer to resist such incidents.

Equilibrium Jacket Under Armor Carrier
Equilibrium Jacket Under Armor Carrier

An oddity that we discovered when reviewing three members of the Equilibrium family is that there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the locations of the zipper pulls. Some were on the main zipper. Some were on pockets. The only item that had pulls on all of its zippers was the Equilibrium Vest.

No Zipper Pull
No Zipper Pull
Zipper Pull
Zipper Pull

Overall, the EQ family were wonderful guests. One can hardly imagine a place where they would overstay their welcome. We have integrated them into the Trek Tech Black family as permanent members in our fall, winter and spring daily wear.

LALO Tactical Shadow Amphibian Boots

LALO Tactical Shadow Amphibian Boots, Desert Color, MSRP $350.00, www.lalotactical.com

Author: Toby Asplin

Contributor: Eddie Baker

Photos: Shelly Lynn

FTC Disclosure: The product reviewed was provided by the manufacturer/distributor.

Overall Rating:  Four out of five Evil Black Rifles (Five is best.)

Four Rifles

 

Appearance: Three out of Five Evil Black Rifles – Very light desert tan color and 1990’s Reebok/Orthopedic Shoe appearance were off-putting to several reviewers.

Three Rifles

 

Durability: Four out of Five Evil Black Rifles – Handled our usual Trek Tech Black abuse over the course of three months with no signs of undue wear. We believe they would hold up well over longer use as well.

Four Rifles

 

Features: Five out of Five Evil Black Rifles – LOTS of features.

Five Rifles

 

Market Leadership: Five out of Five Evil Black Rifles – Exceptional, market-leading functional design and comfort for a water-oriented boot.

Five Rifles

 

Value: Three out of Five Evil Black Rifles – Relatively high price and narrow niche (water immersion-oriented missions) hurts LALO in this category.

Three Rifles

 

LALO Tactical’s Shadow Amphibian boots may appear to have descended from your mom’s 90’s Reeboks but they’re one of the best tactical boots on the market when it comes to operating in water.

For those familiar with operating in water and wet conditions, you know that there are two basic approaches – attempt to keep your feet completely dry or allow your feet to breathe, drying naturally. There are two flaws in the first approach. First, it is virtually impossible to keep your feet entirely dry, regardless of the technology. Second, dry boot technology tends to hold moisture in preventing the circulation of air and slowing the natural drying process.

Fill 'er up!
Fill ‘er up!

As a part of our testing, we spent time walking in creeks, ponds and lakes, filling the Shadow Amphibians with water to see what would happen. What happened was the water drained out of the boots so quickly that we really couldn’t capture the draining process in a photo.

Drain Vents
External Drain Vents

Even when slightly clogged with mud, the Shadow Amphibians’ external drain vents worked well. As expected, testers feet were wet but the boots drained very quickly. The Amphibians also have drain vents in their insoles.

Internal Drain Vents
Internal Drain Vents

Interestingly, although the boots drain well, the uppers don’t breathe all that well. In normal (dry) operating conditions, most testers experienced a fair amount of trapped perspiration.

Our testers had a few other nits and picks. The “Desert” color of the boots is very light. LALO assured us that the color is “a Pantone from the military and is the tan color that the SEAL Teams use” but it was lighter than other desert boots owned by some of our testers. The light tan color looks almost white in certain lighting conditions giving the boots the appearance of an orthopedic shoe.

The tongue flap (see feature photo) protects the boots’ laces and helps prevent them from coming untied.  A nice feature to be sure.  However, in our testers’ opinions, this feature is not as well-executed as the lace pocket on some of Salomon’s shoes and boots (our benchmark for this feature).

The finger loop on the back of the boots is fairly small. Testers with larger fingers struggled to fully insert their finger into the loop. This, coupled with the lack of a speed lace system, makes the boots a little more difficult than average to put on and take off.

Finger Loop
Finger Loop

Overall, however, our testers’ response to these boots was very positive. The fit was generally good out of the box. The boots are fairly stiff, however, and require some break-in time. That stiffness provides support. One tester took his test pair for a run and stepped in a hole that would normally have resulted in a high ankle sprain. With the Shadow Amphibian’s support, he was none the worse for wear.

The soles of these boots are very quiet on normally squeaky, polished floors. While the tread is not particularly aggressive, the boots provide good traction on frosty grass, water-covered rocks and snowy ground.

Shadow Amphibian Tread
Shadow Amphibian Tread

Even though these boots are relatively stiff, the ankle flexes nicely due to the flex notches fore and aft. They are some of the most comfortable boots we’ve tested when it comes to running. The compression molded insole works well for those with a forefoot-strike running stride.

Rear Flex Notch
Rear Flex Notch
Front Flex Notch
Front Flex Notch

In summary, the LALO Tactical Shadow Amphibian is a superb boot for those who anticipate a good deal of water submersion. Water-based special ops missions, GORUCK events and other similar events would be perfect for these boots. Given the Shadow Amphibians’ price, however, potential buyers should give careful consideration to their intended use before shelling out the dough. Most people don’t really need a boot like this. With that said, if you have the resources, can find a bargain on a site like GovX.com or truly need a boot that handles water immersion well … we highly recommend the Shadow Amphibian.