Richard Elder in known in the industry for being the project officer for the team that developed the PCU, the protective combat uniform. A breakthrough technological improvement that has become the foundation of modern high performance and expeditionary clothing systems.
Now at Beyond Clothing since its acquisition by 5.11. Richard Elder formerly served as the executive director of Smith Optics Elite Division, where he led the development of the ballistic eye-wear program. Prior to Smith Optics, Elder spent 10 years as a US Federal Program Manager, developing equipment in support of the United States Special Operation Command. Prior to, he attained the rank of Sergeant and later, Captain, completing his tour in 2001 within the 75th Ranger Regiment, United States Special Operations Command. Elder also served in the United States Army for seven years as both an enlisted soldier and commissioned officer.
We had the unique opportunity to interview Rick and spend time with his team while visiting the Beyond headquarters in Seattle, WA.
- Manufacturing Capabilities
- Tier 1 Customers Requirements
- Combat Clothing vs. Expeditionary Clothing
- Tactical Companies vs Outdoor Companies
- Supporting SOF
- A diverse customer base
- Developing for the next challenge
- Integration between clothing and gear
- Next stage for mission clothing
- System vs. Garments
- Lutra Fabric
Outdoor Research manufactures, without a doubt, some of the finest textile products in the outdoor industry. The Seattle-based company has mainly built its brand around the climbing, mountaineering and exploring community; and is now gradually increasing traction also in the tactical-military apparel market.
In the past OR, has manufactured gloves, beanies, hats, bivies and other products specifically oriented for the tactical industry. At SHOT Show 2017 we have covered the launch of a new line of tactical apparel(LINK), designed to be extremely versatile thanks to a modular layering system.
The first garment that has been released is the outer hard shell, the Infiltrator jacket.
Compared to a PCU (or Protective Combat Uniform) the Infiltrator jacket would be a level 6, which consists in a non-insulated hard-shell garment. In a PCU system the level 6 jacket and/or pant should be worn both with and without insulation underneath as it is designed to provide water protection both in warm and cold environments, as well as during both dynamic and static activities.
As we all know, insulation and warmth come at the expense of size and bulkiness, and therefore there is an issue with the mobility of the user, since traditional hard-shell fabric don’t provide any elasticity.
The revolutionary feature of Outdoor Research Infiltrator jacket is the GORE-TEX® Fabric with Stretch Technology, which is designed to solve the previously mentioned issues.
There are two specific advantaged related to the elasticity that we have experienced in the testing process: unaffected agility and ability to comfortably add layers underneath.
Unrestricted freedom of movement during high performance activities or gestures related to weapon manipulation. The GORE-TEX® Fabric with Stretch Technology panels are strategically placed in high mobile areas of the body, such as the inner-arm/ armpit as well as back / lats. These key points need to anatomically be free to expand in order provide enough liberty of movement.
Usually it is possible to feel a slight impeded movement when doing ready-up drills when wearing standard waterproof jacket; if you don’t, chances are that the garment fits loosely (which may be good for mobility but not as good for bulkiness).
With the Infiltrator, those key areas are well stretched and shooting with the jacked feels the same as shooting without, which in our opinion is the ultimate goal for a “tactical” garment manufacturer.
Ability to layer even with a very athletic fit.
The strategically placed stretch fabric panels provide a close fit in warm climates in which the jacket is worn without insulated layers underneath. At the same time, the fabric can stretch and expand to accommodate voluminous insulation layers in colder environments.
We appreciate the athletic cut of the Outdoor Research products; it is one of the features that differentiate their products from standard “military” manufacturers.
The background in the alpine, climbing, mountaineering and high-performance outdoor markets has brought a great level of know-how on their drawing board when designing a new tactical apparel line that would render the user’s movements as efficient as possible; we have, in fact, experienced negligible restriction of movement.
Freedom of movement, lightweight, pack-ability and durability of textiles are features that have been improving the “tactical” apparel segment and have originated within the performance-based outdoor community.
The streamlined design of the Infiltrator jacket provides higher comfort when wearing plate carriers, chest rigs or even backpacks, especially in dynamic environments.
The two areas in which we applied thoroughly testing were the sections considered to be under the most pressure when wearing a plate carrier, a backpack or a chest rig: the yoke and the shoulders.
The presence of a stretch panel in the cervical area of the neck provides a high degree of comfort and, in conjunction with the other stretch panels, keeps the yoke and shoulder areas wrinkle free under the weight of equipment. Under heavy rain, the fabric has kept waterproofing also in the areas in which pressure was directly applied.
As with all GORE-TEX® hard shell textiles, in warm and humid climates, the fabric has difficulty expelling moisture and heat from the inside of the garment. Therefore, we believe that quick drying is a mission essential feature that both the GORE-TEX® Fabric with Stretch Technology and the “standard” all-weather GORE-TEX® Military fabric are equipped with.
The hood was designed with a high degree of versatility in mind. It allows the user to comfortably cover the head when wearing a helmet as well as without headgear.
The “Halo-Hood” consists of a draw cord that runs the whole circumference of the head for precise adjustments and can be controlled via a cord-lock located in the occipital area of the head. The cord is enclosed in a mesh compartment sewn inside the hood, in our opinion this is a key feature if one uses tactical helmets that, equipped with lights and rails, may be caught by the hood itself.
The “Halo-Hood” provides extremely important adjustability especially if a helmet is not worn, due to the larger size of the hood in order to accommodate most helmets.
With or without headgear, the adjustments allow the user to closely secure the hood to the head; and because of the stretch panel located in the cervical area of the neck there is a large freedom movement (extension/flexion, lateral bend and especially rotation).
Vertical adjustment is provided by symmetrical draw cords accessible from the front that cinch down the hood from the temple area and are secured by cord-locks.
The helmet worn in the photos is an OpsCore helmet equipped with two S&S Precision V-Lites, a CORE Survival Helstar 6, a Princeton Tec Charge MPLS, a Princeton Tec Remix MPLS and a Oakley SI Alpha Ballistic Halo™ Goggle.
The hood provides protection to the elements even with this equipment mounted. We believe that all “tactical” oriented hard-shell should have such a feature-rich helmet.
SIDES and ARMPIT
The side of the jacket features a panel of GORE-TEX® Fabric with Stretch Technology that runs from the armpit all the way to the waistline; this section mostly allows the jacket to expand when worn on top of other insulated layers. The armpit has a no-seam construction and is not equipped with vent zippers, which could become uncomfortable after wearing with backpack straps and rifle slings for a prolonged period of time.
In order to cool down the user can open two symmetrical side vents located at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions. The two YKK® AquaGuard® Vislon zippers can be opened from the bottom, exposing the belt area or from the top, retaining a higher degree of protection from the elements with the internal storm-flap while cooling down.
The side vents can also be used to access holsters or belt mounted equipment. Shown in the photo below is a Safariland ALS holster with low-ride belt attachment.
The jacket features two capacious symmetrical front pocket (160 x 300 mm) that can be accessed via AquaGuard® zippers. The opening of the pockets is placed high enough in order to not interfere with harnesses or belt straps of backpacks.
The inner part of the pocket is built with a mesh fabric in order to allow the pocket to be used of venting, giving the user two different techniques for cooling down.
The materials used are undoubtedly innovative and, in our opinion, are truly going to raise the industry standard. Overall the Infiltrator jacket has been utilized for rucks, runs, hikes and for shooting and it does not show any sign of wear.
The equilibrium among freedom of movement, lightweight, durability, breathability, climatic adaptability and overall waterproofness truly render the Outdoor Research Infiltrator jacket a unique piece on the market and a must have in any environment.
The Infiltrator jacket is available both in Berry-Compliant and non Berry-Compliant version in Multicam, Coyote and Mas Grey.
For more information on the Outdoor Research Infiltrator Jacket please visit: Outdoor Research Tactical