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!


  1. Although i did not have the opportunity to try out one of these battle shirts for other reasons, i sure wish i had. Like Will mentioned in his comments, I'm one of the guys that had to go sleeve less just to keep from over heating out here! That caused a sun burn problem for my arm and shoulders, which we all know could have been very dangerous. Anyway, judging by what i observed and experienced these last six months; if I could back, I would have most definitely invested in one of the battle shirts no questions asked! Thanks Ssgt. Rincon

  2. Started a new training evolution today and the team ran the ABS's out on the range. They continue to perform flawlessly. Tomorrow I am going to try something different and run the Helium Crew under my armor...stay tuned!

  3. As to the BDU - you should try the new design by Potomac Field Gear. Not only did these guys develop the first performance, FR base layer for the military (a full year ahead of the other guys), they continue to innovate combat solutions in tactical combat gear. Their latest offerings include a Combat Shirt (shown at the SHOT Show) with built in panels in the chest, back, shoulders, neck and elbows to (1) give you a layer of separation from the body armor and packs for thermal regulation, (2) weight distribution to reduce shoulder sores (and neck chafing from gun slings) and (3) lab tested and proven to reduce back-face deformation by 30%. The whole shirt is FR, wicks, breathes and extremely comfortable. Send us an email and we will find a way to get a sample out for T&E. Thanks, Brian. media@potomacfieldgear.com

  4. Hey, Will! Thanks for such a great write up. I'm glad to hear our ABS served you well throughout your deployment.