Monday, July 18, 2011

The Addendum Reviews Come Marching In

From Wikimedia
       The addendums to some of my previously posted reviews are coming in now! The final method I decided to use to do this was going back and giving them all another proof-read (and believe me, some of them needed it) and then editing in new thoughts on the product after typing “ADDENDUM”. I added some new opinions to the 5.11 Coyote ATACs boot 8 inch (Here), Oakley Assault S.I. Gloves (Here), and made an affirmation of my love for the Dye I4 with an addendum opinion regarding the lens (Here).
       Now, I am a junkie for racking up page hits but I won't make you click all those links to get revised and re-proofed content, even if it does mean passing up a potential 200 hit day. What I had to add on to my review about the 5.11 boots was how much they disagreed with the shape of my feet. In the original review I did post about how in the first pair I wore, I managed to destroy the heel of the boots by placing a new insole over top of the old one, raising my foot to a height it didn't belong. 5.11 was nice enough top replace those but by the time they did, I'd purchased another pair, 2 for the price of one new pair in the end. I'm currently wearing pair number 3 since during the time since posting, pair number 2 crapped out on me, the heel wearing worse than the first pair. 5.11 recommends purchasing a pair one size smaller, or one half size smaller to remedy this if you encounter the problem. I did this and still had the issue. I know of no one else who's had the issue though, so it must be my own mutant heels. Though I personally won't be investing in any more pairs since the boots hate me, I still recommend them to anyone looking for a good tac-boot since they are that damn comfortable. By the way, not to toot my own horn but... the review of the boot? If you plunk 5.11 coyote atac review into Google and certain permutations of it, Eight Pound is the first result at the top of the page, above 5.11's own website!
       Oakley Assault S.I. Gloves: Still a good glove with good protection all around, the knuckles still being the most amazing part. The palms continue to hold up well but when I wash them to get heavy soiling out, the palms will BLEED black dye out of them. No rips yet, no other broken stitches than the original one mentioned, some fuzzing from friction, but when you wash them you have to find a spot to let them dry which you don't mind having a black hand print on from the dye bleeding out with the water.
       The Dye I4's (Verbatim): I still love the mask, have worn it in every kind of weather imaginable barring a tornado or hurricane and they have never once fogged on me or any other heavy breather at my field whose purchased one. Since buying one and sporting it at my field earlier this season, it's become the most sought after mask in Kamloops. Most people still wear JT hard plastic Flex masks at KPG but those are usually what they purchased as a first mask. If an upgrade from an entry level face protector is what those people are after, then they usually end up buying an I4, the I4's only competition up there being the Sly Profit and more than 50% of those who have purchased those are having buyer's remorse! I have encountered two issues though, one very small, and one somewhat bigger: Due to lacking a visor of any kind, the vent above the lens are exposed to the elements, this allows paint spray to fall into the mask sometimes, as well as rain water. Not a huge deal if you clean it quickly after but if outside pollutants fall inside and aren't cleaned quickly, it will lead to problem 2. The mask will bubble a bit. The coating itself doesn't come off or rise off the surface of the mask and it's only the inside surface where it's an issue, but anywhere I had outside pollutants touch, there is a permanently distorted spot if I didn't clean it immediately. On the bright side, if you have this issue, Dye makes very affordable replacement lenses at only 30$ CAD from

Friday, July 15, 2011

BIRTH OF A NEW BLOG: and Eight Pound gets a Facebook Page!

       That aforementioned vacation from blogging after the Valken event is really not happening. In my time off I've gone and started another blog which I decided I should give a plug to right here and see if I can scare up just a little bit of readership for it. What is it? Boy, I do feel like just a little bit of a poser sharing it here but it's a longboard blog. I live on the side of a mountain and ever since my bike was stolen from under my apartment last year, I've been looking for a means of getting around town which wouldn't break the bank and could be tucked away in my closet. The solution? In my case it's going to be sidewalk surfing. I've actually never ridden one so I'm taking a gamble in purchasing one and the new blog is my way of documenting my attempt to learn as much about longboarding as I do about paintball. I figured a good day by day journal of a regular joe who knows very little about it going in might be nice for others interested in picking it up. If you want to follow along you can expect to see the same type of writing and articles as you see here. Less in the way of reviews, more in the way of stories. EDIT: wow do I ever feel dumb, I suppose the url might help for sharing it, eh?
        Also, Eight Pound Ops is going to get a Facebook page! Or I mean to say it actually has one right as I type this. I'll be setting up the news feed there to automatically publish articles from here and those on the page will be able to read the material from the blog as soon as it's published. If you like the content found here, become a fan and invite your friends, it means a lot and the reception this blog has had has been much more positive than I imagined it would be. Seeing a nice healthy number of daily views makes it all worth it and propels me onward to do more.
       I know that the last couple posts on here haven't been too paintball newsy but I have a few in the pipeline which are. Two Epic Story Times which I'm saving for a rainy day, a review, two addendum reviews, an interview, and a podcaster told me I should put a more personal introductory post up for readers to "relate better" so expect a masturbatory 'about me' post coming soon, probably for post fifty.
       Don't be a bonus baller!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Week of Valken Aftermath, Arbitrary Milestones, Self-Congratulatory Back Patting, and an Epic Story Time

An over zealous congratulatory back pat
worthy of a paintball blog
       It's completed, but even with a designated conclusion post for the Week of Valken for summarizing and wrapping it all up, my mind is still whirling from the rapid fire posting and editing. I re-read a handful of the posts from those 9 days last night and noted some spelling errors and a few unclear points and decided to give every post an additional proof read and edit. I double checked all the in text links as well to ensure they were working and linking to what it is they're meant to. I also realized while doing this that going back and doing some edits might be a great way to squeeze in some afterthoughts on products previously reviewed, for example, the Oakley gloves and 5.11 boots; definitely developed some new opinions on those in recent days. Finally, I went in to the stats section of Blogger to check where the blog sits in regards to traffic these days.
       I've passed a few good milestones in the last week and though I believe there is every possibility those would have been passed without the 9 days of product reviews, I think it's appropriate to look back and let regular readers know where the blog is sitting right now. Firstly, it's garnering about 60-70 page views per day right now, and more every time I add a review. This month the blog is sitting at 1350 page views. And in regards to all time history, three evenings ago the blog broke 5000 total views since Christmas of 2010. But wait! There's just a little more back patting to give myself! I have one of those epic stories to share and this is one of the rare occasion where the story is about myself.
       It's starting to seem like all the stories I want to share with you guys are coming out of games of “Doctor,” and this one is no exception (currently editing another one). It's a short one though, and one of the few stories about myself personally but being that the blog isn't for personal ego stroking, I'll try my best not to drag it out.
       As alluded to earlier, this was another game of Doctor, myself and another gentleman were doctors on our team, and the other team was also equipped with two life givers. The crew pushing up my side took their time making their way up the field but ended up having very minimal need for me and managed to clear out one doctor and a pile of his team mates just before the 5 minutes remaining mark. I was only using a pistol and so was of little use in any case, but with one man with a Custom 98, another with an X7 Phenom, and a third with an Etek 3 AM, we had a pretty capable and interesting mix of guys working our side. Our jubilation for the successful push was short lived after taking down the one flank as time was running out and the other half of our team had not managed to take any ground, we had to make it up in short order or end the game in a draw. Several enemies on the flank we we're moving into quickly fell in places where the surviving medic wouldn't easily be able to get to them and so they exited the field. Our team had a great position to destroy the rest of the team given our flanking positiong, but we had a rotten amount of ammo. I was out of both paint and gas, and the gentleman with the Phenom on my team was in the same boat, by this point, he was mostly just standing there to look intimidating, myself as well.
       Two guys remain on the enemy team, one doctor, and one experienced Autococker user who would like to be known as Wade (see the Angry Barrel story). Wade is good, no one wants to poke their head up just because he has the uncanny ability to snap his focus to you before you can line a shot up on him. His doctor is near him, not close enough to tag him just by reaching out, but about one bunker away and could easily revive him if he made a quick dash. I make a stupid move: being out of paint, gas, and being my team's more experienced doctor, I decide to keep low and out of the Wade's line of site, as well as his doctor's and crawl to a bunker super close to them.
       Well crap. I can't even move now.
       Very lucky for me however, the one time I peak out from behind this cover Wade was looking the other way. One of my team mates dropped in behind him and so Wade sprinted at the guy unleashing hell in the other direction. The enemy doctor was to the right of what I saw before me, he was hiding in a piece of culvert which had been cut in half lengthwise and was leaning against a tree. All I could see was a barrel sticking out, moving back and forth, rhythmically blasting balls down the course to suppress my team from coming at him. With no threats in front of me except the doctor if he pokes out, I decided to make a move.
       I crouch-ran very quick, and I was holding my breath the whole time, worrying I'd be heard since I had a half empty pod in my dump pouch making a horrible noise as I moved along, but I kept low and made it to the piece of culvert without being detected. The doctor was still blasting away. I reached up, and grabbed the barrel of his Custom 98 and he fired in surprise, I pushed it forward and away from myself and the doctor, my arm extending straight out. I then brought my T8.1 up with my other hand (right) and rested it on my extended left arm, trained on the doctor's face.
       “Mercy.” I said, and he took it.
       I don't believe I've ever seen close quarters contact such as that during a game. I've seen a barrel tag or two, and have heard epic stories about bingo dabber knife fights, as well as rubber knife and lipstick CQB kills but have never seen or been involved with a player having his gun immobilized as part of gameplay. It was great, 4 kills off an 8 round magazine some games too! That day was the only one ever where I've run just a pistol, and if action like that is what's generated as a result, I might have to try it a little more often!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

VACATION TIME: Closing the Week of Valken

       This 9 day long project took a lot longer than ten days to make, believe me, and long before I started writing the articles, ideas for how I wanted to do the “Week of Valken” were percolating in my brain. Regular readers know by now that I have a team which is sponsored by Valken, or more accurately their Canadian distributor, Underground Productz, and this week of reviews and coming Valken gear picture galleries is the team's way of repaying them for how instrumental they've been in helping me organize and equip my little recreational/scenario team since we are a low budget group of guys who aren't super mobile. I hope no one will take the fact that I'm sponsored as a suggestion that the reviews from the week were biased. I tried to give equal representation to pros and cons of the products when reviewing all of them and the means by which the team became sponsored by Valken was me approaching Valken, not vice versa. They didn't ask the blog to do anything, I asked them to sponsor this team (Kamloops Fusion for those wondering) because I loved their gear and what they had to offer, and I already owned a full Zulu V-Cam get-up before anything was arranged.
       I hope the two dealers (Valken and UGP) liked it if they followed along, I hope the readers liked it, I know I certainly enjoyed it since I take a good deal of pride in the blog and adding 30% more content felt great but I think it's time for a breather. This event has been weighing on my mind quite heavily since the idea to do it came to me and aside from posing the boys for pictures, the writing, editing, and general production was a solo act. I'm thinking now that some time away from self imposed blog deadlines is in order. The galleries are coming and I'm stoked to have some time to do camera work instead of my one track attention span being focused solely on paintball, be it working the field or for the blog.
       I hope that in the last few days I've acquired some more readership from the places on Facebook that I've shared updates on the event. If you liked the Week of Valken and took the time to look at some older articles, let me know what you thought of all of it, and if you're a real keener, you'll let me know what sort of material you hope to see on the blog in coming weeks as well.

REVIEW: Other assorted Valken Goodies

       We have 6 products to quickly review as a wrap up to the Week of Valken on Eight Pound Ops; some stocking stuffer kind of products they could be described as. We have the Valken Remote Hose Cover, Neck Protector, Tank Cover, Sierra Gloves, and two flavors of Valken barrel condoms. I apologize for how inappropriate that last one must have sounded.
       The Hose Cover: I don't have any similar products which I've used that are like this one but I can definitely say that for around 15 dollars, it's a super handy device to add to your paintball gear collection. I decided to grab one when I realized how annoying cleaning a naked remote coil can be. It doesn't take much incoming fire to get your coil covered in paint which will dry, crack, and flake off all over your house once you're off the field. For me at least, running a wet cloth along the length of the coil is easier said than done. However, as I write this I realize that running the remote line under hot water would probably be a much faster solution to my hose cleaning woes.... In any case, the Valken remote line cover is a robust piece of paintball gear being made of the same material which their pants and tops are made off with easy to use velcro strips to keep it form sliding up and down the length of your remote coil. Another plus? Using one of Valken's camo'd remote line covers means you won't have a bold black line running from your back to your marker and will allow the remote line to blend into your outfit.
       The Neck Protector: It's a comfortable device for taking the bite out of shots which find their way to your throat. For the first couple days of use, you'll definitely be very conscious of it being there. This isn't to say that the V-Tac neck protector is uncomfortable or restrictive of movement, just that it folds in very “feelable” ways when you crane your neck in certain directions. Unlike a lot of neck protectors, there aren't a lot of sewn on pieces of cloth, neoprene, and extraneous designs so it's a fairly minimalist and affordable piece of equipment. It is however a piece of foam, albeit a nice one, but like most pieces of foam, it will soak up your sweat on hot days rather than wick it away like those expensive models with cloth.
       The V-Tac Barrel Condom: This barrel cover is pretty standard fair as far as barrel condoms go but with a much nicer price tag, about 3-5 dollars depending on where you're purchasing from. Some might think the price tag is an unimportant part of the deal but with barrel covers with half naked ladies on them running 15$ in some cases, it's worth a mention. This cover isn't quite as long, nor as wide as what Tippmann usually includes with their makers but it is large enough to cover a Flatline or Apex Barrel. The construction and material they are made of does appear to be more robust and they are made of a material more hefty than that on other products in the V-Tac line. They also come in every camouflage scheme which Valken currently offers so there's plenty of options to choose from.
       The Rental Barrel Condom: According to the order sheet which Valken sends teams and dealers, these barrel covers are supposed to be orange, but the 30 covers which landed in my employers lap are black. We can't complain however because they look slick, fit our rental Custom 98's quite nicely and are holding up just as well, if not better than any other barrel cover. With most rental covers running 5$ a pop (from our other suppliers) Valken's make a nice new addition with their 2.50$ price tag. Unlike those from the V-Tac line, they are not large enough to fit a Flatline or Apex Barrel.
       Valken Sierra Gloves: a team mate of mine ordered these gloves and agreed that letting me try them on to review them in the Week of Valken was a good idea. I'd personally never seen them before and wasn't sure what the expect for 15$, but when they arrived and I got a good look at the gloves, they reminded me very much of those BT Sniper gloves people know I've come to loathe. These are made by Valken however so I will try to evaluate them objectively. First off, they do feel comfy. at first try on they don't restrict movement in any parts of the hand which is really nice, they also grant a fair bit of finger dexterity so a good trigger walk on a speedball gun might not be out of the question, and I'm even wearing these gloves as I type this review. They have a very small amount of padding on the palms of the gloves, four small stitched areas of it and it's so little in fact that it almost seems unnecessary to have added it here. Some of you know I'm a fan of the kevlar palms of some paintball gloves and the padding on these palms doesn't seem worth it. They are warmer than inexpensive, cotton, winter gloves which might be a turn off for some, and they do not have any padding on the back of the hand at all, with the exception of a small piece of synthetic leather over the trigger finger. I do like the synthetic leather palm of the gloves, as well as the added silicon bits for facilitating grip. For the price, they seem like a good deal, but I know inexpensive paintball gloves too well by now to think these ones are going to be much different than other companies offerings. To be fair, I'll do an addendum review at the end of the year and let you know if they survived the next couple of months on my teammate's hands.
       The V-Tac Tank Cover: When you buy yours, you may think you've been had. They look a lot smaller than the tanks they are meant to cover but rest assured, they stretch over and compliment the profile of the tank you're using just fine. The cover is made of a combination of materials: 70% neoprene, 25% polyester, and 5% lycra (spandex). The stitching that holds the tank together is about what you'd expect from a cover from NXE, but the design is much simpler. As a result, this cover costs less than those made by competitors, but they come with fewer features, most notably any sort of silicon grip on the back to give the cover better grip to your shoulder. Having this material make contact with your shoulder is certainly better than a slippery naked tank resting there sliding all over the place causing shots to go wide but some form of grip would have been a nice touch. Some of the gentleman on my team have noticed that in some ares of the cover there is the same fuzzing up which is present in the V-Tac Zulu jersey. Aside from that complaint, there's only one other thing which worries me: the zipper. It's standard Valken fare but as of late I've broken so many zippers on all sorts of paintball gear that I whimper whenever I see one. Perhaps I'm just paranoid.

Monday, July 4, 2011

TEASER: Valken SW-1 Marker

       Here's the teaser for a certain Valken product review I was very much hoping to have completed for the Week of Valken, the SW-1, but due to some unfortunate corner cutting on behalf of the warehouse help who packed my team's "order number two", it won't be ready for a little while longer. What were some of the issues? Well, we got the marker, it was missing a rear site, missing a hopper feed neck, and had been quite thoroughly test fired with broken paint residue coating the bolt and the part of the marker the bolt calls home. This was our first order with the sender, and no one had ordered from them in the past at the retail capacity. On it's own, the marker transgression wouldn't have been so upsetting, if this hadn't been the second order in a row from a Valken distributor which was either incomplete or incorrect.
       We love Valken products here in Kamloops, but we're not stoked about the service from the distributors. KPG Fusion's deal with Valken was to support the local field and business (done), bring new players into the sport (constant and ongoing), and use their gear. This last one has been difficult to do with incomplete and incorrect orders sent to us. We had a lot of nice things to say about the gear this week, and some more nice things to say tomorrow, but we can't candy coat the shipping service aspect of the deal.
      A complete review will hopefully be posted once we've rectified the issues and I tell you about the porblems now because I'd be posting without any sort of professional objectivity if I chose not to. If you'd like to see some more media of the SW-1 prior to the full review at a later date, you can see it on Valken's site (link).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

REVIEW: Valken Tango Vest

       I'm posting this the night before day 7 only because day 7 turns out to be super busy for me, but hey, it's after midnight, so technically I'm keeping on schedule right?
       We have here today, Valken's molle vest offerings for the discerning gentleman whose most interested in paintball's tactical gear. The Tango Vest is a pretty cool model for sure, and like the Fate pants, I mean that in more than one way. There's a lot of features I didn't imagine the vest would have and I'm very excited to tell you all about them, however, there are a few things that I wish were just a little bit better, or perhaps different than what they are. The vest looks really good, feels really good, and the vast majority of the vest's surface area is made of a nice breathable mesh which after sporting the Milsig RRV vest for so long makes me say it feels really nice when a gust of wind hits it. It has a zip up front which makes getting in and out of the vest exceptionally easy, the zipper could be a bit nicer though. What they have for zipping you in is adequate but a beefier zipper would have been a plus for when you're hands are gloved, a larger YKK sort of zipper for instance. There are two pull tabs on either side of vest to adjust it to conform to the users torso and there's the same mesh along the sides here as on the rest of the vest. Personally, I think the vest would have benefited more from no mesh here because if you tighten the pull tabs it bunches up and turns into insulation. Also, the pull tabs hold the front and back of the vest together making the extra material here seem superfluous. Overall, myself and team mate who owns the vest can't complain about the fit and feel, it is really comfy.
       Construction wise, the vest is comparable to the Echo Vest, there's lots of stitching, not all of it is double stitching but it feels super tough without compromising flexibility. The materials used for the the vest are also the same and you get the same quality you'd expect from a Valken product. Design wise, the vest has a kind of skeleton to it which is made of tough ripstop material. I thought it was going to be all mesh so when I saw this added framing of material I got pretty stoked to poke around the vest some more, but I digress. This material provides a frame for the mesh to be attached to, and on top of both the ripstop material and the mesh sits the nylon webbing for attaching things all over the vest. How molle webbing sewn on to mesh stands up to punishment remains to be seen but if it hold up like that on the Milsig Hydration Vest (to be reviewed later), then users will have nothing to worry about. The webbing isn't super tight, but it's not super loose either so adding attachments isn't much of a chore on this vest like it can be on some. We haven't had time to see if there is much movement on this vest from the attachments on the molle webbing but from our demo tests (for fraying and breaking stitches), none was particularly noticeable.
       But no review can be nothing but 100% praise right? There are a few shortfalls with the Tango vest, the most notable for me being one particular feature of the attachments rather than the vest itself. I've tested a few of them, some pod pouches, the tank pouch, the multi pouch in some a picture from the Echo review but Valken has commit the same 'crime' a lot of paintball companies love to: they think they've gone and improved the molle system by adding velcro to straps you weave on to the vest. BT did it, so did Action Gear Canada, and I don't know why they tamper with the system! Granted, it has no negative effect on most pouches except adding fuzzy material to clean behind the pouches when you get shot. Where velcro on the pouches REALLY SUCKS is when you add a tank pouch. Paintball companies want to make it so the pouches take up as little real estate on your molle vest as possible, and as a result, there isn't enough of a “foot” on the tank pouches to hold a remote tank on your back securely. What ends up happening is the user has a tank on their back that wants to move from side to side, making just a little contact with the velcro as it travels back and forth, then loses that contact, making a ripping noise as it does every time you take a step. Some of the stealth factor is lost as a result. Valken's is the same sadly (it holds a 70cu 4500psi tank with very little room to spare by the way). Their pod pouches are great, and if they made a tank pouch that was about 4 molle strips wide like the 2+3 attachments for pods then they'd be set, no velcro ripping of the tanks, they could even add two elastic pouches to the equation and make a 1+2 pack and it would be amazing. Until then, there will be just one pouch I can't recommend from Valken, as well as other paintball companies (save for Milsig) and that's the remote pouches. Tim Minchin said it best when talking about alternative medicine in his 9 minute beat poem: “do you know what they call alternative medicine that's passed clinical trials? MEDICINE!” Not to rip on Valken, but a lot of other companies too: “do you know what they call 'improved' mil-spec molle gear that has been adopted by the military? MIL-SPEC!” If it ain't broke, don't fix it guys!
      P.S. I didn't write any of these reviews in chronological order, I have 3 more articles coming in the next 2 days, but this was the last I finished writing, whew*
      P.P.S As always, Valken's Page (link) has more pictures of said products

Saturday, July 2, 2011

REVIEW: Valken Echo Vest

       We have two vests to review for you over the next 48 hours. One is the monster pod carrier Echo Vest, and the other is the Molle milsim style Tango vest. Given the title, I guess I should tell you about the Echo vest first. My first impressions of both these vests after examining them through the sealed plastic they were delivered in is that these are some pretty robust pieces of gear, and after taking the Echo vest out and trying it on, I was not disappointed. There are tonnes of tabs, belts, and buckles, all easily accessed from the front while wearing the vest for adjusting to fit the user perfectly, but there aren't so many that it becomes a chore figuring out which does which and later worrying one will loosen while playing. The stitching which holds it all together is very tightly done with no space under the stitches for something to slide under, pull, and break the stitch. It also seems to be made of a tougher sort of thread than on much of the other gear but I may be mistaken on this point.
       This product can be called a vest thanks to the shoulder straps it's been given, but in my eyes, it's still more or less a pod pack with suspenders, but how well does it function as a pack? It's actually better than any belt pack I've ever used! With this pack, you get many more points of contact with the added shoulder straps, the usual elastic belt piece for your gut, as well as an additional strap across the chest, and all these additional points to secure the device to your body ensures that there is a very small fraction of the movement of pods on your back compared to the usual belt pack. To ensure zero movement on your pods on a regular pack, you need to position the belt just right around your torso or waist and then do it up fairly tight which for some players means sacrificing breathing capacity. The Echo vest has a large belt which wraps around the user's stomach just as on most pod packs. It's a thick piece of an elastic material with velcro panels for tightening it to the user's preference and since there are shoulder straps on the vest, this part can be left somewhat loose. It doesn't restrict the wearer's ability to bend in the midsection and it doesn't subtract from comfort while playing. Some belts like this on other vests and podpacks can cause pinching between this belt and the waist area of the pants, especially if the user has a bit of extra weight in the midsection, but I'm glad to say that I haven't felt any sort of pinching from this vest in that region while demoing it, and my team mate who owns the product also can't comment on discomfort here. To limit side to side and up and down movement of the pack area of the vest while running, there is a moderately sized rubberized panel to hold the pack tight to your lower back. It doesn't take up much room and the surrounding material is a high quality mesh to facilitate ventilation. A small molle panel just above the pod pouches can also hold a remote pouch if you so desire to carry a tank on your back and I should probably mention to you now the pack's true coup de grace. How many pods does the Valken Echo vest hold? A whopping nine 140 rounders!
       So what are some cons of the vest? For what the Echo vest is designed to be, I really can't comment on any shortcomings. I know that some other products like it, such as one particular vest made by NXE includes a remote pouch and a reservoir for a hydration bladder, however the addition of both those features rockets the price of that product up to over 100$ in Canada and the remote pouch location on that vest lowers the number of pods which can be carried. There is no real estate on the front for adding additional pouches but to add some there would mean more material and restricting ventilation. If there was one thing I have to say I don't like, it's the 'top' of the pod pouches where the bottom of the pod sits. This is a rigid piece of material, what would have been excellent here is an elastic loop to help eject the pod into your hand when opening the pouch it's sitting in. Aside from this, only one other minor gripe and it's with the shoulder straps. They are a little close to the wearer's neck and like to make you aware of this fact. Though I did not have any issue, my team mate whose played some more with the vest has noted a little abrasion from the vest in the neck area from the close shoulder straps.
       For the price of this vest (Roughly 36-40$ US, a little more CAD), and the variety of camoflages it comes in, you really can't go wrong picking one of these vests up. If you use a speedball gun but never go to tournaments, or a recball gun with a tank on the ASA instead of on a remote this is probably the best option out there for you, even if you're experienced and have a healthy budget for a vest. It's less expensive than high end pod packs and does the job of holding paint just as well, if not better than many other companies' offerings.
       Valken's page (link) has more images of the Echo Vest.

Friday, July 1, 2011

REVIEW: Valken Fate Pants

        These pants are cool in about three pretty awesome ways. First is their affordability: Sitting at less than 40$ US, they make for a handy addition to your gear collection if for no other reason than they're great for when you can't use your regular load out and don't want to get the street clothes dirty.
        Second is they look great: it's a minimalist design for sure, given that these are Valken's entry level pants but sometimes less can be more. Aesthetics aside, these pants have a very modest design which still manages to cover all the bases in ways that don't jack up the price. Valken really puts a lot of work into the designs on their gear and the Fate pants are no different than the high end products. They have two pockets for stowing pocket things, they zippered though so if you want a pair I wouldn't keep valuable in them. They have padding in the knees which is comparable to that of the Sierra pants and there are two pockets on the sides for stashing a barrel swab. Nearly all the stitching to be found on the pants is double stitching ensuring the pants won't be falling apart at the seems quickly. The pants also have the same strange stretch panel in the crotch which the Sierra pants do. To top it all off, they have plenty of excess material so to encourage bounces and not breaks. Like all other pants made by Valken, they have a mechanism at the bottom of the leg for tightening the pant around your ankle and keeping that area from dragging in the dirt, the means by which it works on these pants is a thin length of velcro all the way around the ankle which can be adjusted the wearer's preference.
       The third way they're cool is that they literally can keep you cool. Living in a desert, I was skeptical when I made a bit of an impulse buy on these black(!) pants but they most certainly delivered. Like the Sierra pants, these ones lack any kind of significant ventilation on the backs of the legs. Unlike the Sierra pants, they're made a different material entirely which encourages air flow and discourages insulation on hot days. Sitting out in the sun today, even while not moving I felt pretty acclimated wearing these pants despite my fears that the color (or lack there of) would cause me to over heat quickly but they breathe very nicely.
       I am going to have to do an addendum review to these pants however. I've reffed in them, plan to do a lot of building and field work in them which usually involves scrambling about on my hands and knees anyway, will be moving the business to a new location in them soon, but I will not be playing in them. I'll run them through their paces a little longer and let you know how they hold up.
       By now do I even need to mention Valken's page (link) has additional pictures of all the features talked about? Check their page out after the jump.