I feel like I've been committing smilsim acrilege a fair bit lately, what with some perhaps overly friendly speedball articles, the camera lens article, and the general lack of text articles regarding milsim since the Valken V-Cam shoot back in February, but I have to do it again. As a primer for some reviews and articles to come, most likely after April 30th, I'm going to share with you now a review of the Valken 2010 Black Skulls Redemption Pants, if for no other reason then them happening to be the only source of inspiration while in I'm in the midst of term papers. I know this model is pretty well impossible to find at the pro shop these days on account of it being old news from a year a half ago but I need to give them a review now because they're a good pant; really quite exceptional for Valken's first year building paintball gear so would it be such a leap to say their 2011 gear is just as solid if not better?
I picked up a pair of these pants in last months of 2009 on a bit of a whim. I certainly had trouble justifying the purchase but knew it wasn't too much of a crime if it was something I enjoyed and planned on getting a whole lot of use out of. That, and I somehow imagined them being interesting camo for playing among birch trees which is an environment I still have never actually played in. I ordered a Double XL size through ANS gear, and they arrived in a very timely fashion though they were much too large. I'm about a 39' waist so nothing fits me, everything is too big or too small so I had to send these enormous pants back to ANS and ordered a Large size that supports at most a 38' waist thinking it'd would force me to eat a little healthier so I could fit into them come the opening of the 2010 season. Despite being a little tight around the waist the first few times I tried them on and buttoned them up, the pants started to fit very quickly, no diet required, and other than the waist area the rest of the pants fit perfect with lots of slack around the hips and all the way down to the ankles. The diet plan went out the window in a hurry.
|Side Slide Panel and Squeegee Pocket|
Enough with the story of how they landed in my lap and on to the pros and cons of these pants. Cons first...? I'm sitting here, blankly staring at the floor right now and trying to think of something that really grinds my gears about these pants and I honestly can't say I can think of anything. If I really had to complain it would have to be about the material around the hole where you put a barrel squeegee, this area is a getting a little fuzzy and frayed from wear but not enough to compromise the pant. Until I purchased a pair of Valken pants, I was using a pair of Empire Contact 08 Special Edition Woodland pants for paintball and those were the golden standard I measured every pair I came across to. These Valken ones have quite thoroughly ousted them.
A lot of people have compared them to the Empire pants and I can see where the draw some of the similarities between the two designs, but having owned both of pants, I can say with some certainty that the Valken pants are everything you loved in the style of the Empire pant, and then made better. There are stretch panels in the same locations on the Valken pants but for some reason, the way they're situated on the Redemption pants just feels more natural. You can squat, kneel, belly crawl and do any number of other awkward maneuvers in these pants which just feel more natural than on the similar Empire Contact pant. The aforementioned squeegee hole on the Valken Pants is in the same location on the Redemption pants as it is on Empire's and so many other brands of pants as well. I've personally never encountered a pair of pants with a holder on side of the ankle though I've heard they exist and are quite awkward and am happy to say that's not where this holder is, this one is right on your hip, both sides of the pant. On another note regarding this area of the pant, the smooth, slippery material on the hips to reduce friction when sliding into a bunker extends further down the side of your leg on these pants than it does on the Contact pant.
Ventilation wise it's no contest: the Valken Pants beat the Empire ones hand down. The ventilation panels are on the same part of both pants, all the way up and down the inside the leg, as well as sizable panels on running along the back of the legs, but for some reason the Empire ones don't get the same sort of through-flow of air as the Valken Pants. I spent some time reffing in both pants over the course of the 2010 season and given that Kamloops BC is a desert and these are both dark coloured pants, one would think I'd be dieing on the field from heat stroke. This was the case with the Empire Contact pants but wasn't so with the Valken ones. With Empire's pants I had to continually walk around the field to ensure there was ventilation on my legs or I'd start to perspire quite quickly, with the Valken's Redemption pant I was kept cool and dry, even while sitting still in direct sunlight.
|Nice Big Kevlar Knees, Just in Case the Product Shot Didn't|
Both pants have a substantial knee pad region which is highly resistant to getting cut open on any jagged edges you might slide along. The Redemption pants are clear winners again with a knee pd extending from above the knee to almost all the way down the shin. The padding in both pants' knee area's does leave something to be desired though, such as a denser layer of neoprene-like material on the inside where your leg is. When you hit the ground hard the padding with protect you from nasty gouges to the skin but you will still feel any hard and jagged surfaces you land on. This problem can be rectified with paintball knee pads underneath these pants but wearing knee pads sort of defeats the purpose of built in pant padding, doesn't it?
|Elastic Belt Waist Adjustment Strap|
Two more quick things: both the Valken and Empire pants have the same kind of elastic strap system on the waist for users to adjust the pant size to their own hips, both systems involve two stretchy pieces of material which is pulled forward through a belt loop and then hooked back and secured in place by velcro. Both pants also have a rubbery panel extending a short ways up into the lower back area to lend some grip to any pod pack you wish to use. The Empire Contact pant has a larger rubber area but I find this causes my jersey to bunch up in that area in bizarre and uncomfortable ways. The Redemption pant has a smaller rubbery area and does not have that problem, it's a trade off in that regard I guess.
|Rubber Lower Back Panel To Hold Your Pod Pack in Place|
Some may have a few complaints about my comparing a 2008 model of an Empire pant to a 2010 Valken model but it's not a very unfair comparison. Empire has been around a lot longer than Valken, especially given Gino Postorivo's signing of the non competition clause with Empire back when his original business was assimilated by Kee Action Sports. Valken Paintball is the new company on the block and comparing their first high end model paintball pant to that of another juggernaut of a company that's been around longer would clearly make the Empire the more formidable contender. Paraphrasing from earlier: the 2010 Redemption pant is old news and the 2011 stuff has been out for quite a while, replacing their predecessors. I'm reviewing them now, only because I believe the construction of these pants, as well as their durability over a full season of reffing and playing is indicative of the quality to come from the 2011 Redemption and Crusade lines that are out now.
PS: sorry the pictures couldn't be better this time around, no one is here to model for me, maybe next time!