Product Review: Triple Aught Design Recon AC Pant, Gemini Shirt and Equilibrium Jacket

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Editor’s Note:  This is part of a series on “crossover” wear, clothing that can be worn in the wilderness, at home, at work and on social occasions. Crossover wear is better tailored, more durable and hence more expensive than run of the mill “tactical” clothing. Triple Aught Design (aka TAD), has become popular with everyone from hikers to secret service personnel. In this piece we’ll look at their Recon AC Pant, Gemini Shirt and Equilibrium Jacket. (The jacket is featured above).

Triple Aught Design logo–the company is based in San Francisco

Triple Aught Design describes their products as “purpose-built goods for the ‘capable’ consumer”. Tucked away in a 100+ year old former cannery in San Francisco’s funky Dogpatch neighborhood, the company has created a line of elegantly functional and durable clothing. In short, TAD has successfully melded rugged functionality with a refined, urbane aesthetic.

Triple Aught’s products span both urban and wilderness settings.

They appeal to a demographic that groks “EDC”, better known as “Every Day Carry” gear. Management understands that their customers are at home in any number of environments whether it’s the C-suite, the rifle range or a lava field on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Company spokesman, Scott McGuire says, “One of the dominant characteristics of our customers is capability. Some may ‘carry’, whether it’s firearms, or simply being prepared with a first aid kit. In any case,” says McGuire, “each customer has a proclivity for being skilled and responsive in nearly any situation”.

The Gemini Shirt derives its moniker from NASA’s Gemini program.

Notwithstanding TAD’s urban headquarters, McGuire told me his company’s employees often spend their free time “in the dirt, often far off the grid”. They move between city and country with ease – in the same manner as Triple Aught customers.

For this article I made a point of taking TAD’s products far off the grid, ranging from the Ko’olau mountains in Hawaii to the Continental Divide Trail in northern New Mexico.

Non-Corporate Culture

TAD’s culture has everything to do with the product and vice versa.

McGuire said that the employees share a real intimacy in the creation of their products. “The office staff”, he said, “sit next to the sewing machines used to prototype our goods. We are makers of goods.” This contrasts with other manufacturers who contract their work to third party, overseas factories.

Even though TAD manufactures made-in-the-USA products, they keep their prices down by marketing and distributing their goods directly to the consumer. It’s a strategy that’s viable only because of the Internet. Boutique fashion companies have always existed but it’s easier and far more lucrative to sell and promote your products if you can eliminate the dreaded middleman. Thus they can sell high end apparel at a reasonable price that would not have been possible 20 years ago.

The Recon AC Pant is light and tough.

Recon AC Pant

Of all the crossover pants that TAD makes, these are the most in sync with “action and mission”. The company has designed them for the “speed, mobility, and comfort” one would need during long-term covert operations. Whereas most of us won’t be slinking into North Korea or Eastern Ukraine anytime soon, the message is that this piece of clothing will help get you anywhere you want with the greatest of ease and comfort.

While the marketing message maybe a tad dramatic, the pants live up to their hype.

Pockets galore for stashing your stuff

What strikes you first is that they are made 100% of a kind of parachute-like nylon that is both very strong and very light. They are not flashy—they are all business.

The mobility they afford was remarkable. You can practically do yoga in these pants—the movement is so unrestricted. They are particularly good for hiking—bounding up and down boulders is a breeze.

The pants are water repellent but not waterproof. Water or moisture tend to bead up and roll off the fabric. After a wash you don’t need to put them in the dryer. Just hang them on a clothesline or drape them over a rail on the balcony. They will dry in 10 minutes or less in the sun.

The pants can also be rolled up and squeezed into any crevice of your suitcase. You don’t have to worry about wrinkling them.

In line with its “covert” DNA, the Recon AC Pant also has a number of storage options. There are no less than nine pockets on the Recon AC so that you can carry everything you need–mobile phone, passport, knife, map, coins, etc.

The front hand pockets are a potential treasure chest. To begin with, they have flat lace loops to clip key chains, USB drives, tiny pocket knives or what have you. There’s a reinforced flap that allows you to clip a folding knife and a small coin pocket. Behind both front hand pockets are nifty little welt pockets where you could tuck a small smartphone or another item for easy access.


With nine pockets Recon AC is great for travel.

There are also two  main cargo pockets on the thigh. They are secure and zippered with YKK zippers. Both thigh pockets have loops in the upper corners. These large pockets are appropriate for maps or similar items that lay flat. Probably not so good for weightier stuff such as cell phones which can flop around on your thigh.

There are also two generous rear welt pockets to pop in a wallet or an AR 15 magazine.

You would also want these pants for travel. Not only are they easy to pack, there are a plethora of pockets to stash your goods.

They are incredibly comfortable. I like the way they hang from my waist. Even though they are loose-fitting, by necessity, they are tailored to accentuate your physique. They are stylish enough to wear anywhere, except perhaps to the Opera Ball.

My pants were gunmetal but you can get them in khaki and other colors. The price ranges from $88 to $110.

The Gemini Shirt has a really clean, lean look. (Even on a non professional model).

The Gemini Shirt

The Gemini Shirt derives its moniker from NASA’s Gemini program. According to TAD it embodies the spirit of NASA “where exploration and adventure are the defining creed”. Again, a little dramatic but the idea is that this shirt, which is made from a of 21st century blend of cotton and polyester, can handle “multiple environments”.

Comfortable, chic and fits like a glove.

This shirt is handsome and masculine. There’s a sort of retro-cowboy/western look about it that I really like. I call it the space cowboy look in deference to the San Francisco musician Steve “Space Cowboy” Miller, who used to reside in an old ferry boat on the Embarcadero, not ten minutes from TAD headquarters.

What I really dig about this shirt is that you can wear it anywhere. It’s stylish, comfy and there’s (of course) a hidden envelope pocket to stash important items.

It’s also incredibly practical. The high-tech fabric resists wrinkles which makes it a desirable traveling companion. You don’t have to worry about ironing this shirt and it’s dressy enough to wear, yes, anywhere.

I got mine is a deep “siege” blue and it fits me like a glove. They are also available in other hues. Price ranges from $80-90.

You can wear this in town or at 9000 feet. Works great as a shell in the mountains.

Equilibrium Jacket

This item came in extremely handy as a lightweight traveling jacket good for just about any environment and stylish to boot. It travels well because it compresses easily and has sufficient insulation to keep you snug, even at 9000 feet in the Rockies. Normally I’d travel with a leather jacket but for high altitude the Equilibrium is much more practical.

If the situation dictates, it’s designed to be loose enough so that you can also use it as a shell. Coming from Hawaii to the Rockies, I needed my Patagonia parka too and with the Equilibrium on top I was perfectly layered without looking like a polar bear.

The secret insulation is a third party product (known as “Alpha”) from a company called Polartech.

The Equilibrium is compressible, and easily packed. A rear  pocket serves as a stuff sack. To engage, simply turn pocket inside out and stuff the jacket into the reversed pocket.

A rear, single entry hunter’s pocket serves as a stuff sack.

Alpha was originally developed for the U.S. Special Forces when they required a more advanced insulating material in their combat uniforms. This fabric is a new technology with active insulation that regulates core body temperatures during both dynamic and static activities. This latest advancement in adaptable breathability helps eliminate the need of shedding or adding layers while on the move.

A stable core of lofted knit fibers prevents fiber migration to keep a uniform consistency, even after heavy wear and repeated laundering. By keeping moisture vapor moving freely through the fabric it increases overall air exchange and drastically speeds up dry times. This reduces discomfort from saturation and prevents it from turning into a sponge.

It looks great (mine was black), perfect for urban missions. It’s also breathable and lightweight. Retail price range from $160 to $200.

Conclusion

All the items we tested from TAD are first rate. The company uses high end materials, designs them to work and, to be fashionable anywhere. That’s what crossover is all about and they do it as well as anyone in the industry.

Robert F. Kay is a columnist for the Honolulu Star Advertiser, a health nut, a sharpshooter, the author of two Lonely Planet guidebooks and creator of Fijiguide.com. He likes crossover wear and 1911s.

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