14 July 2011

Massif: Part 2

In our first installment if Massif products, “Massif: Part 1”, we talked a lot about the Massif ABS. That little guy continues to impress with its durability and comfort, so I think we are going to put it to bed on its evaluation period. Verdict…it is well worth the buy if you aren’t in a position to get it issued to you. Conversely, if you are actively serving, talk to your Supply NCO about making it part of your standard issue!

We were going to make Part 2 of the Massif overview a catch-all for everything else they sent us, but I think we are going to change it up a bit. Instead of going over a bunch of product, I am going to highlight just one: the Helium Crew long sleeve shirt.

I happened onto this review on accident. During this Iraqi Security Forces training course, we spend the first week out on the firing range, getting the students familiar with their AK47, getting familiar with different firing positions, weapon zero, firing drills, and finally qualification with their weapons. During that time, we spend all day cooking out in the sun; so we do everything we can to stay cool in the Iraqi summer sun. When I got up on DOT 4 and realized I needed to do laundry the night before, I was a little bummed because I knew I was about to get destroyed by the sun that day. Digging through my pile of lightweight T-shirts, looking for one of my paper-thin DriFire undershirts, I came across my Massif Helium Crew. I passed over it for a second…but came right back to it with a thought. These shirts are basically the combat shirt without the uniform sleeves…why couldn’t this thing be worn under my armor to protect my arms from the sun, while still giving me protection in the prone position. The simple answer was that it could be. I knew it would keep me cool because it was lightweight and is moisture wicking. I already knew the lightweight material on the torso of the combat shirt wore comfortably against my skin while wearing armor, so this should too. Really the only big thing I was missing was the padded Super Fabric elbows of the combat shirt.

-As predicted, this shirt kept me cool. The moisture wicking capability worked as advertised, keeping sweat saturation way down under my armor. Please understand that when it is 125-130 degrees out, you’re going to sweat. There isn’t a product in the world that is going to keep your clothing from absorbing and holding a little bit of sweat. The moisture wicking technology is something that can help mitigate that, but it cannot defeat it completely in those temperatures.

-Because this shirt is made out of very lightweight material, it made wearing that long sleeve shirt completely bearable. It has a bit of an athletic fit, which I liked, but wasn’t like wearing an Under Armor Heat Gear shirt…those things feel like you’re wrapped in plastic wrap all day long!

-Durability was something I had concern with wearing the Helium Crew under my armor. It wasn’t really designed for such an application so I expected it to deteriorate a bit from the friction of my armor carrier. I expected to take off my plate carrier and see fuzz balls all over the torso from the nylon rubbing on the material…didn’t happen! I expected the same on the elbows from being down in the rock and sand while in the prone position…didn’t happen! This thing looks like it is in the exact same condition in which I removed it from the package.

The final verdict on the Massif Helium Crew is that it is a lightweight, cool, and durable long sleeve shirt. It is a great piece of kit to be worn under your uniform shirt, or under your armor. I was really impressed with the fit and comfort of the Helium Crew, and would recommend its use and purchase. Keep up the good work Massif, I’m looking forward to the further development of your clothing line!

01 July 2011

Massif: Part 1


Folks, it is good to be talking to you all again. I have been, and am currently, in Iraq doing the job for Uncle Sam. However, there has been great opportunity since I've been here this time to play with and work out some new and innovative kit. The topic of today’s conversation is Massif Mountain Gear and the personal protective equipment they design and manufacture. "Wait Will, they make clothes...?” That is a correct statement, however... Just like my body armor and ballistic helmet, their clothes protect me and thousands of others here in the theater of operations. Massif makes fire resistant (FR) clothing that is as hardnosed and resilient to abuse as some body armor vests I've worn and made...therefore it falls into the category of "kit" to me...so let’s talk about it!

I have spent countless hours over the last 6 months wearing Massif, Dri Fire, and XGO FR clothing. This has been in an effort to figure out who makes the most comfortable, most durable, and best fitting FR clothing. That test is ongoing and will likely be in "FR Clothing: Part 2" when this deployment is complete. In the meantime, I have been wearing and evaluating a number of outer garments made by Massif. As we know, Massif is the approved manufacturer of the Army Combat Shirt, but they are also the approved manufacturer of the Airman Battle Shirt. That said...let’s talk about the ABS!

Over the course of the last 6 months I have spent about a quarter of that time in the ABS. That time has been spent training Iraqi Security Forces, as well as working joint operations with Iraqi Security Forces. The short version of my verdict is that "the juice is worth the squeeze"! That's right, they are that good and I will tell you why as we go along here.

The Highlights:

Lightweight: In 115 degrees, lighter is always better…period!

Moisture wicking: See my above point, but sub in moisture wicking.

Padded Super Fabric elbows: In the prone position with a gun…not having to wear elbow pads is awesome!

-Over the course of this deployment, my team and I have spent a LOT of time cooking in the Iraqi sun with our students. On a number of occasions, some of my guys have chosen to remove their uniform shirts and just wear issued cotton or issued DriFire T-shirts under their armor. Several times, some of them chose to wear sleeveless undershirts under their armor in an effort to ventilate and keep cool. While not authorized, when things make good sense, I’ll allow it. In an effort to continue to evaluate the ABS and its capabilities, I never removed it from underneath my armor. The most I ever did was rolling the cuffs a bit. This shirt and the fabric it is made of kept me comfortable throughout. There was never an occasion where I felt like I was overly hot because of it.

-As stated above, the built-in elbow pads are an awesome feature. There is just enough cushion there to hit the deck on any terrain and not cause discomfort. I’m not certain about the life span of these built in elbow pads, but after 6 months of wear, they have shown no sign of breaking down.  Additionally, rocks and sand abrasion has not degraded the Super Fabric in any way.

-The fit is something of note here. If sized properly, the athletic fit of these shirts help to minimize bunching and hotspots on the body. On some of my bigger guys (shoulder width, lat size, etc), there was a bit of bunching in the armpit area, but I think that could have been taken care of with an order of the next size up.

The Not-So Highlights:

Collar: I would like the option to utilize the mock neck or to have it fold down. I feel like I am constantly being choked by a really weak guy. I would prefer the option to not be choked like the NWU uniform with the quarter-zip collar.

Forearm zippered pockets: I just don’t know what I am going to put in there…really isn’t much room for anything but folded up paper, but sweat would destroy something like that. I guess one could stick laminated 9-line cards in there or something, but now you’re putting laminate in your sleeve which will cause a hot spot on your forearm, not allowing the fabric to breathe at all in that spot…maybe I’m splitting hairs here.

So what do we have here with the ABS, and the rest of the combat shirt family from Massif? In short, we have a winner. Massif is already a proven company. Their products speak highly of the time and care they have put into design, end user feedback, and quality. A little known fact about Massif products is that the material used in manufacturing is not something they buy in bulk, cut, and then sew. Their fabric is produced in-house, down to the thread. When they say FR, they don’t mean “no drip, no melt”…they mean FR down to the very core of each garment. I will continue to recommend the company and its products to everyone who will listen…they’re good!

Be sure to tune in for Part 2 of this feature when we review the Lightweight Tactical Jacket, Universal Combat Shirt, Helium Crew, Breeze T-shirt, and Breeze boxers…maybe even the Massif Beanie. Thanks all!