I picked up a set of Wild Things Tactical's windsuit a couple months back, and haven't had a chance to really use or test it yet. While we normally only get about 15" of rain a year, we are currently in the middle of a torrential rain storm that has dumped 10" in 24 hours! What better time to get outside, and test some gear?
I wore the windsuit outside for about 2 hours. This included a 40 minute walk with the dogs, at a brisk 15 minute mile pace. Underneath I was wearing 5.11 pants and a t-shirt. It was overcast, raining continuously, about 65°F, with about a steady 8 MPH wind.
The windsuit is made of a very lightweight ripstop nylon. It feels even thinner and lighter than "parachute cloth". The weave is very tight, and high quality. Wild Things Tactical states that the threads of the fabric are individually encapsulated with silicone, adding significant water shedding capability. The fabric does not stretch, and while not "silent", is not as noisy as most alternatives.
My windsuit is in Crye MultiCam pattern. Though it hasn't been washed yet, the initial colors are very correct and vibrant. The camo pattern appears very crisp and with less bleeding or fading than regular 50/50 NYCO fatigues in this pattern.
The zippers used are very lightweight, with very narrow teeth. This caused the leg zippers to be easily clogged with dirt and grit after stomping around in the rain and mud. While I would have preferred heavier duty zippers, especially on tactical clothing, they don't seem out of place with the thin, lightweight fabric.
The shirt and pants set weighs in at only 18 oz (1lb 2oz), and packs down to about the size of a can of soup if rolled tightly.
The manufacturing quality of the garments is excellent. The stitching is all straight and correct, and the seams and pattern are well thought out. The pants include two slash hand pockets, in their typical spot on the upper thigh, a back pocket, and 18" leg zippers to the top of the calves to aid donning and doffing. The shirt includes a zippered breast pocket on the wearer's left side, 2/3 zipper from the neck down for donning and doffing, and a waist shockcord cinch on the left hip.
The overall impression of quality is that it is top notch. Considering how lightweight the suit is, and how small it packs, I would have liked to have seen it pack into its own pocket by design, or include a small stuff sack.
The windsuit generally fits quite well. Wild Things Tactical describes the fit as being intentionally athletic and close fitting, to keep out wind.
The stow-away hood does not feel bulky or awkward when stowed, and fits close to the head. It does not have a pronounced brim, and while I was wearing a ball cap underneath it, I felt slight downward pressure that the weight of the shirt was riding on the brim of my hat, making me want to look at the ground instead of keeping my head up and scanning the area. The hood is close-fitting enough, and the material thin enough, to put a helmet over comfortably. The sound of the rain on the hood, while noticeable like most raingear, wasn't overly loud or distracting.
The fit of the pants waist is fairly narrow. While wearing the windsuit I was carrying my standard gear - full-size pistol, multitool, cellphone, knife, flashlight, and spare magazine - on my belt. Without this equipment, the pants would have fit fine, but the pant's waist was just barely able to fit over the equipment. Because of where the shirt's waist falls, it was necessary to pull the pants over my belt and equipment if I wanted to keep it dry. I would have rather preferred the jacket to be long enough to pull down over.
The jacket's cut is close-fitting, but not restrictive or cumbersome. The neck zipper made it easy to get in and out of. With the presence of the elastic wrist cuff points, and the shockcorded waist, the shirt stays in place and protects the wearer. The breast pocket is mesh inside, making it useful for storing wet items or things you want to keep handy while not wearing body armor.
[contentheading]Wind and Water Resistance, Plus Breathability[/contentheading]
I realize this is marketed as a wind layer, but it's also proclaimed for enhanced water resistance, so today's rains were a good opportunity to test both.
From the wind perspective, while today's 8 MPH winds are mild, essentially no wind was felt through the fabric. I am confident that even at faster gusts the suit would perform very well. The streamlined fit and appropriate cuffs and cinches allow only trivial wind entry at those openings.
For water resistance, the suit also performed better than expected. The thin, uncoated fabric feels like water should pour right through, but it doesn't. The silicone treating on the fabric promotes excellent water shedding, and most water beads up and falls right off. I haven't yet washed and worn the suit repeatedly, but I expect the performance to continue. I did get a little bit of water transmission through the suit, exclusively to the front of my thighs and my "hand pockets" areas on my pants legs. This may have been from water being trapped in the folds, and forced through the fabric mechanically, as I walked.
The breathability and comfortability of this suit is exceptional. It doesn't feel as if you're trapped inside a plastic bag, the way many other rainsuits feel (e.g. Army issue "plastic coated cloth" wet weather set and Gore-Tex set). It feels like wearing a smooth, lightweight set of silk clothes. My tactical pants had been a little wet from being outside without coverage prior to wearing the suit, and they were actually able to dry off through the fabric.
Even after a long brisk walk, I did not feel like I was overheating or sweating excessively inside the suit. Armpit zippers would have been a nice improvement, to aid ventilation from the shirt.
[contentheading]Conclusion and Tactical Assesment[/contentheading]
I am very impressed with the light weight, breathability, wind resistance, and water resistance of this suit. It's ability to pack small, and keep weight down, are great combat advantages for the operator in the field. The thinness of the fabric and small size of the zippers means that it is best suited to occasional use, such as in environments analogous to Colorado's, that need this type of protection infrequently. In areas of operation that require more frequent use, a heavier duty garment would be advisable to ensure a useful life. It would also be smart to wear kneepads over the pants, to protect known contact points, though the rubbing may introduce water through the fabric.
The fit allows the wind suit to be easily worn underneath body armor, fighting load carrying equipment, and helmet. Combined with the color-true camo pattern and mild noise signature, this should provide an active operator with enhanced comfort and protection, while remaining tactically effective.
I recommend these pieces of kit, if your operating environment doesn't demand frequent wind and rain protection, but you would like to carry a lightweight option to get the job done when needed.