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T&E: TAD Gear Force 10s and BlackHawk! Slicks

This has been sitting in my backlog for a while so I thought I'd better post it before it become OBE.

The Kit Up! Test and Eval team has the chance to play around with both the Triple Aught Designs Force 10 cargo pants and the new BlackHawk! High Performance Fighting Uniform Slick pants.

As you know, the Kit Up! team is constantly in search of the world's ultimate tactical/operational pant so we're always happy to don some new threads to see if they make the cut.

We'll start with the BlackHawk! HPFU Slicks. We have some experience with the standard HPFU ensemble, having reported its launch a couple years ago and worn them in Afghanistan in 2010. Remember these are the pants, combat shirt and jacket that incorporate a tourniquet system in the vital cutoff points so if you're wounded, there's no searching for the tourniquet if the blood starts flowing. A bit macabre to be sure, but it could save a life.

Well, this year BlackHawk! introduced the HPFU Slick, which incorporates the same technical specs of the combat uniform without the tourniquet system embedded in the thighs and ankles. We put a pair of the pants through its paces after BH sent us a some for eval and really liked them a lot. They have an athletic fit, which we like, not bagging out or slouching around the boots when you've moved a bit in them. The material is durable as hell and even in the sweltering heat and humidity of Fort Knox in June, we weren't swimming in sweat. They incorporate knee pad pockets and stabilizers if you're wearing exterior knee pads.

A couple criticisms, however: It'd be helpful to order one size up if you're gonna pull the trigger on these. We stuck to our normal 34x32 dimensions and even though some of us have put on a few "dad pounds," that size was WAY too small. One has to wonder if there's a quality control problem or they're built by Liliputians in some Asian sweatshop or both.

Second, though we like the slimmer, athletic fit of the HPFU, the downside is that the pockets are virtually worthless. They sit flush to the pant and since there's not much extra room in the leg, putting a water bottle or a couple extra mags in there is pretty uncomfortable. And as with anything like this, the pants ain't cheap. At $129 for the MultiCam option, that's a healthy chunk of change for a pant that's really suited to only specialized operations and environments.

When we first saw the TAD-Gear Force 10 pants in the new NyCo blend, we were skeptical.

Never a fan of synthetics in pants -- particularly in hot weather -- we approached the Force 10s with caution.

First off, have no fear. The fit of the 10s is true to size. They seem a bit on the baggy side at first, but after a few days of wear they come into their own. The pockets are huge, the workmanship of the pant is superb and their durability is unimpeachable.

By far the thing we liked the most about the Force 10s is that there are so many pockets and secret compartments and strangely intriguing features, we never really got sick of discovering the next tweak and gizmo. And all this without feeling like a pocket Christmas Tree or some kind of Philippine-made aftermarket Airsoft Warrior.

Some of the issues we have with the Force 10s include the NyCo fabric weight -- look, we weren't dying in them, but on a hot, humid day, they're a bit sweaty. What ever happened to old-school Vietnam ripstop cotton!? Also, can TAD please lose those goofy plastic eye hooks on the front? I realize they're kind of a trademark but they serve no obvious purpose.

Overall, given the intensive design, fastidious workmanship and durable construction,  the $109 per pair price seems reasonable. The Force 10s pretty close to turning into our #1 go-to operational pants...

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