Editor’s Note: If you’ve been reading our columns lately, you’ll note that we’re including apparel in this year’s Christmas buyer’s guide. The Kitanica review is the third feature in our apparel series. While the items we’re highlighting are not exactly stocking stuffers, we’re featuring products in the $150 range or less that we think represent exceptional value. Stay tuned for more great gifts ideas targeted at your favorite gunslinger.
Kitanica makes a variety of tactical pants. The Oakland California-based firm has carved out a niche as the ne plus ultra of tactical wear. Their gear (which includes jackets, shorts, pants, fleeces and shirts) is at once stylish, sturdy and expensive.
Their standard tactical pants go for $160. The item we’re reviewing, their Backcountry pants, are around $100.
Why so pricey?
They are made with excellent quality materials and are manufactured in the USA. No overseas sweat-shot labor and, you pay for that.
A little bit about why we chose the Backcountry line. Their standard Gen 2 and All-season pants scream tactical. We wanted something a bit less martial, but still tough and amenable to settings outside of the range. What differentiates them from other models is that they are they are not overrun with pockets.
Like the rest of the Kitanica lines of pants, the Backcountry version sports beefy nylon belt loops which make it easy to distinguish Kitanica from other brands. Everything is robust about the pants. For example the zipper is an industrial strength, black YKK item. It’s double reinforced in the rear and knee.
The Backcountry pant is described by Kitanica as a “a breathable outdoor pants for anything and everything.” That said, they are tailored to effect a slim profile. I must say it works.
Here’s what else you get:
• 2 Hip pockets
• 2 Rear pockets
• Knife pocket right side leg
• Riveted button waist with YKKTM metal fly zipper
• 7 belt loop, contoured waistband (size 30 has 5 loops)
• Dual waist adjusters
• Reinforced articulated knees
• Reinforced butt
• Bar-tacked stress points
• 6.5oz NYCO Ripstop
• Mil-Spec A-A-55301 nylon webbing
• All Seams Bonded-69 nylon thread
The Kitanica website does a great job of displaying their goods and it reflects well on the products. Their marketing niche is bold, in your face but looks both classy and very masculine. There is no cheesy, Soldier of Fortune-like come on.
Kitanica’s founder, Beej Cronin, has portrays himself as a kind of iconoclast–a self-taught designer who literally toiled in field before taking up the sewing machine.
The Kitanica website describes him as a “master sewer, designer and pattern maker.” Beej got into the rag trade at the tender age of 14. Again referring to the company’s website, the genesis of Cronin’s clothing endeavor began while working on an antique apple tree nursery in Point Arena, CA.
He wanted to create jackets and other gear that could handle the day in and day out demands of farm life. Beej and his brother Chris founded the company in Brooklyn, NY in 1995 and two years later moved the business to the Bay area. They ended up in Oakland.
The name of the company is derived from Chitin a substance that you may recall from high school biology. Chitin (prounced Kai•tin) is the very tough structural component of insect exoskeletons. Hence the name Kitanica.
In 2001 the company took a back seat to Beej’s education. He completed a masters degree in education and spent eight years teaching math and science to at-risk youth.
Meanwhile, reality TV reared its head. Someone by the name of Adam Savage, star of a TV Show named “Mythbusters” purchased one of his jackets. Evidently the fans of the show found the jacket Mr. Savage was wearing quite appealing. Inquiries started pouring in and Beej soon realized he had a hit on his hands.
As the Kitanica website explains, “With renewed interest in Kitanica products, Beej with brother Chris and their cousin Len Riccio are again producing high quality, heavy duty Kitanica gear.” And this was a good thing–otherwise there would be no Backcountry pants!
But I digress. Back to the pants:
The Backcountry variety comes in one color only, khaki and one length, 34”. Thus if you’re short, like me, you’ll have to get it hemmed. Although presumably you’re going to wear a belt, on either side of the waist are pull tabs that allow you to adjust the fit by cinching in the length and securing it with a Velcro patch.
The fabric is a 50/50 cotton-nylon blend that feels very similar to the Vertx 65% Poly/ 35% Cotton blend.
One issue that a potential buyer should be aware of is that the manufacturer does not recommend you machine dry the pants. They must be, as the saying goes, hung out to dry. I asked Chris Cronin, Beej’s brother and the other half the founding Kitanica duo, why? His answer, “Clothes generally last longer if you hang dry them. That is all. Mine have been in the dryer many times. It’s just a better way to clean clothes you want to last. No big deal–more of a suggestion than an imperative.”
So what’s new with the company in the product department?
New this year, says Cronin (in addition to the Backcountry Pants) is the Brush Pant. The Brush Pant is their work pant made of cotton duck and double reinforced in the Rear & Knees.
New stuff: The company has just launched a new Women’s tactical pants. They are similar to the ASPs but different in fit and pocket configuration. Says Cronin, “They are bad ass and called WASPs (Womens All Season Pants).”
My conclusion: If you don’t mind this one extra step of hanging your clothes to dry in your frantic, over scheduled, early 21st century life and have the discretionary funds, you’ll dig these USA-made pants. They fit well, feel good and are trimmer than the standard, boxy “tactical” wear. I suspect they will last for a long, long time.
Photos courtesy of On Target staff.
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