Extreme Gear for Extreme Users!

This section of m998.com is dedicated to reviews of some of the equipment I have purchased or that has been submitted for evaluation. Be sure to visit the forums to discuss this or any other type of military gear.

Most of the use has been in public service and search and rescue exercises. If you are a manufacturer and would like to submit gear for review, please send us an inquiry and we will contact you with further information.

As stated on my dealers page, I do not stand to gain anything monetarily from any of the manufacturers of gear reviewed here. This way, you can be assured my opinions are unbiased. Products most recently reviewed will be at the top of the list.

My latest acquisition: The TCI (Tactical Command Industries) Tactical Enforcement Communication System (TECS).

I decided that my Saber I with speaker-microphone was just a tad unwieldly for everyday use. I searched for viable alternatives to the standard speaker-mic configuration and while looking at lightfighter.com, found out about TCI. I also learned in their forums about another company called TEA (Television Equipment Associates). Let me first tell you the story of what happened with TEA.

I called up TEA and spoke with Bill there at length about what sort of setup I wanted. I was looking into their Invisio setup, which is a headset and bone-mic all in one in-the-ear unit. We discussed my needs at some length and when all was said and done and the options tallied, the total would have come to around $700.00 for the set...AND a ten (10) week time before fulfillment. This is unacceptable.

I emailed him asking if I ordered it later, would the backlog be any shorter. His answer was "no". Such an inability to correct this backlog demonstrates poor management and apathy for the customer. I am a customer and I am an advocate for other customers. I will not attempt to order anything from TEA. Ever. I will note for the record that Bill was cordial and helpful in my conversations with him. I just will not accept a 2.5 month wait for a $700.00 piece of equipment. If the thing costs $700.00, they should HAND DELIVER it to me for that price.

So...disgusted with the backlog and excessive prices from TEA, I took my business and my $$$ to TCI. I spoke with Mike first, then Don later. Mike was extremely nice and tried to be as helpful as he could, but Don seemed to be more in on the manufacturing and technical aspects of what I needed. I ended up ordering the TECS, which includes their sturdy tactical push-to-talk (PTT) switch. Let's start with the switch. It's about 2" in diameter, where the part you press to talk is approximately 1" in diameter. The housing of the switch is a high-impact plastic, with the inner PTT area consisting of a neoprene rubber material. The travel of the PTT, when pressed, is about 1mm...hardly noticeable. It does not make any noticeable sound when pressed...an important factor in tactical situations.

When I placed the order, I'd initially intended to use a custom earmold setup for comfort. The use of custom earmolds has one main drawback -- it blocks out all other ambient sound from that ear. I tried the regular earpiece they included with the set and it works fine. It is very, very comfortable and allows external sound to pass to your ear so you do not have a "plugged-up" feeling. I ordered mine with the optional "Soundwaves/FC receiver upgrade" and it just sounds great. I had no difficulty understanding conversations over the radio with this earpiece...everything comes through really clearly. The microphone is great also. I have had good received audio reports with the lapel mic included.

The military quick-disconnect cords will be familiar to those of you that have flown in military aircraft. It is the standard military aircraft 4-conductor (3-ring) U-174 phono plug manufactured by Nexus, commonly used on military helicopters. Your military headset will not work using this setup into a Saber, however, because of the lower impedance of the military headset. I tried it. It doesn't work...the audio is REALLY weak this way, both send and receive. Prolonged use in this manner will seriously damage or destroy your radio/headset/PTT components, so beware.

Overall, I am very happy with my purchase and the customer service I received from TCI. They have gone above and beyond to satisfy my particular headset requirements and they talked to me like I was an intelligent person. I know I don't know as much as they do about these headsets and their applications, but I know more than the average grunt about them and was glad they treated me as such instead of talking down to me. They gave me a time estimate of three weeks to have the headset completed and you know what? IT WAS DONE AND IN MY HANDS WITHIN THREE WEEKS. How do you like that, TEA?

Here is the description of the TECS from TCI's website:

The TECS was designed to meet the needs of special enforcement units and tactical operators looking for versatility. We have been manufacturing these systems for several years as a custom product. It has now been made available as a standard product through our tactical headset line. The system features a low-profile Lapel-style Microphone, our TCI Tactical PTT and TACT-LITE Earpiece System. You can also chose either the PRO-Series Coiled Audio Tube or Soundwaves/FC receiver upgrade. A MIL-SPEC disconnect allows customers to maximize the versatility of the package because you can later add just about any of our other tactical headsets to the system by quickly connecting it to the existing system.

M998.COM EXClUSIVE: Complete review of the Paraclete Releasable Assault Vest (RAV).

Tactical Tailor MAV and X-harness

Here are some pics of the Tactical Tailor Modular Assault Vest (MAV) and X-harness loaded out. When I purchased mine, I chose the two-piece MAV that separates in the front of the vest for more comfort in the prone position.

The great thing about the MAV is that it can be completely customized for individual missions. You may need 40mm smoke or some flash-bangs at one point while on a different mission, you might need to carry 8+ M16 magazines. When you buy the MAV with the pouches included, you will receive 4 pouches that each hold two M16 20 or 30-round magazines, two small first aid/compass pouches, and two large sustainment pouches large enough to each hold a one or two quart canteen or an MRE. Nalgene bottles will also work nicely in these pouches. The addition of the X-harness gives you additional load-carrying capabilities as there is ample PALS webbing on the rear of the X-harness as well as on front of the two shoulder straps. There is also a drag handle on the back of the X-harness, but it seems a little lightweight, IMHO. If I had made it, I would've sewn three or four layers of webbing together, doubled it over and then attached the handle. Much stiffer and heftier that way.


Recently, I've purchased several packs made by Maxpedition. They are all EXTREMELY durable and well-made. It is obvious that they pay special attention to detail in manufacturing their packs. Like Special Forces listed below, they are also based in California but UNLIKE SPECIAL FORCES, they actually have reasonable prices for their packs. Their equipment is at least as well-made (it's really a lot better) and their prices are a fraction of Special Forces'. You can spend a lot of money for this stuff, but you don't HAVE to. Maxpedition's stuff is made better and costs less. Period.

The first pack I bought was the Proteus Versipack. This is an excellent waistpack. There are two side pockets that will easily fit small items such as a wallet, cell phone, pager, knife, etc. In addition, the main compartment is subdivided, which makes it easy to carry small papers or a notebook as well as larger items (MRE packets, first aid equipment, etc.). The exterior pocket is formatted the same way. The thing that makes the Proteus so versitile is the different carrying methods available. You may choose to carry it with the attached carrying handle; you may carry it around your waist with the included waist straps which stow away neatly when not in use; you might strap it over your shoulder like a backpack; or you can attach it to a PALS/MOLLE compatable pack.

There is also generous PALS/MOLLE webbing along the front and sides which allow the user to expand their carrying options with other Maxpedition or Tactical Tailor pouches. I had a Tactical Tailor strobe case on mine and it works great. The TT MALICE clips work well on the Maxpedition pouches.

The next pack I bought was the Thermite Versipack. Where the Proteus may be more at home in the field environment, the Thermite is probably better suited for everyday use. I use it around town to carry my wallet, checkbook, Surefire M2, SOG EOD tool, and yeah you can carry a concealed weapon in there as well (if you are duly licensed to do so, of course). It has an integral drawstring closure you can use to seal out rain to keep the contents dry and a couple of smaller compartments to carry small, flat items. It's very roomy, so the possibilities are endless what one could carry in there.

My latest pack is the Falcon. This one is my favorite. It has PALS/MOLLE webbing all across the outside and both sides of the pack, allowing customized expansion for whatever your needs may be. The neat thing about this pack is that it is very small when "collapsed". I'm not sure if Maxpedition intended this pack to work this way, but it will collapse in upon itself when you don't need the extra room. This is VERY convenient when working in cramped areas and you don't need the pack sticking way out behind your back...BUT -- even if you do need the extra room, it's ok if it sticks out behind you because it's narrow profile will allow the wearer to maneuver in tight spaces MUCH more easily than a conventional ALICE pack or CFP-90 would. It will fit everything I need in this spacious, single bag. It can hold over 1500 in.^3 of gear inside and is also compatable with most all hydration systems. If I recall correctly, the Falcon can hold up to a 100 oz. water bladder.

Now, if you need a full-sized pack, look into their other packs such as the Condor (1950 in.^3), the Vulture (2810 in.^3) or the Baby Condor (2010 in.^3...not a typo -- it has more space than the Condor). The Falcon is ideal for short excursions of several days. You can carry enough food and a change of t-shirts, underwear, and socks plus a lot of other gear in there for a 2-3 day mission.

Like all of their other equipment, it is extremely well-made. I cannot stress this enough...you will not need to worry about the durability of these packs. They are simply built like brick sh#&houses. If you are somehow under the impression that Camelbak's gear is well-made, the Maxpedition line will just blow you away.

Triple Aught Design

Triple Aught Design or TAD has recently introduced a product of their own design. It is the TAD Survival Capsule. This is their "beta" version. I have the "alpha" one which is like this one, but white metal. They are currently sold out of that one. I like the black one better anyway, but it wasn't available when I bought mine.

I pre-ordered mine and received it about 01 May 2002. It's great! I opted to get the SAS compass to go with it. This isn't TAD's fault, but the compass doesn't exactly point to North. I had a flawed one from them before and they had no problem exchanging it. The new one is almost as bad though and I don't want to have to ask them to exchange it again. FLASH: I contacted the manufacturer of the compass and they were kind enough to replace it themselves! They are the best! The new one works perfectly!

The design and construction is really nice though...it is made of solid aluminum stock and the machining is impressive. The caps are o-ring sealed. If you buy the Survival Capsule, you'll probably want to add a little silicone-based grease to the threads to make it easier/quieter to loosen/fasten the caps. It comes with a glow-in-the-dark lanyard, which can be handy. For tactical situations, you may want to replace that lanyard with 550 paracord or it will fit on a silenced dogtag chain nicely. The included lanyard can be easily removed with cutting it so you can use it again later.

The Survival Capsule is small, but keep in mind it is only designed to supply you with a bare minimum of items you may need in an emergency. It comes supplied with fishing line, hook, and sinker as well as a small candle and four strike-anywhere matches. There is still room in mine to add cash and a couple of pain tablets. As per the advice of the US military (no, this info is not classified), it is often advisable to carry several small bills instead of one large bill, but do whatever your situation dictates. You may configure your survival capsule for your particular needs. For instance, I opted to not put the fishing kit in and instead put the tablets and cash inside.

The TAD Survival Capsule is a good investment. You never know when you may need the items contained therein and you'll always have them close at hand since it is designed to be worn discretely around the neck.


The Camelback Transformer received the honor of being first to be reviewed on m998.com. For those that are not familiar with this company, they manufacture hydration systems that allows hands-free access to water during a multitude of strenuous activities. They produce a wide array of products to accomodate everyone from the weekend hiker to military and law-enforcement.

Summers in these parts can be fiercely hot. I purchased the Camelbak Transformer in March 2002 from Ranger Joe's. It arrived in a very timely fashion and I commenced to using it on a daily basis. I am VERY impressed with this pack. I originally had the Camelbak H.A.W.G. (Holds Alot of Water and Gear) but found myself needing a larger pack with more room. The Transformer is ideal as it can be tailored to your specific mission requirements instantly.

The Transformer has a 102 ounce reservior that is baffeled to prevent sloshing. It does its job very well and has the easy-access port which allows the user to put regular ice cubes into the reservoir. The large mouth also facilitates cleaning/sterilization of the reservior. The 2002 Camelbaks also have the military "Hydrolock" valve which prevents leakage during non-use. This had been a problem on the old H.A.W.G. I had before. Nothing like having water leak all over you from an inadvertant pinch! The Hydrolock absolutely stops any leakage.

There are two pouches that come with the Transformer: A small pouch with two compartments and a larger pouch with two staggered compartments. One of the compartments in the larger pouch has organizing pockets sewn in for pencils, compass, maps, etc. I usually put my eTrex GPS in the lowermost part of the rear compartment of the large pouch. The lowermost front compartment of that pouch rides higher than the lowermost part of the rear pouch making things less bulky and distributing the weight more evenly across the wearer's back. Also included is a flexible frame sheet to provide support to the pack. It is removable if the extra support isn't necessary.

On the outside of the Transformer, there is a flap that has attachements for military type MOLLE pouches. These pouches are available from many sources, though one of my personal favorites is Tactical Tailor. They sell a wide variety of MOLLE-compatable pouches that work nicely on the Transformer. At the moment, I currently have the Saber radio pouch, the Surefire Flashlight pouch, and the Strobe pouch all side-by-side on my Transformer. It is very handy because you need not dig through your pack to adjust your radio or grab the flashlight.

Will write more as I use the pack more. It may seem a bit pricy at $140.00 MSRP but I got mine for a bit less than that and because of the construction and materials, it's worth every penny in my book. I believe it's a good investment, especially if it keeps me hydrated. I have a nasty tendency to not drink water if it isn't handy. With the Transformer, I always have water literally at my fingertips.

Special Forces

This place sells some VERY well-made equipment! I bought the garrison bag from them in Fall of 2001 and it has taken daily use/abuse since. It cost substantially less when I bought it than it does now, so I'm not sure I would still call it a bargain. It really is quite well-made though. If you are looking for an upgraded map case styled after the military cotton canvas map case, this is probably the best that's out there. There are numerous pockets for pencils, pens, maps (duh!), PDA, etc. There is even a piece of 2" wide webbing sewn on the side for the specific purpose of attaching pagers/cell phones for easy reach without digging into the bag itself. A lot of thought went into this bag, but it was a little expensive at $55.00 for the black one, but it looks like they don't sell that one anymore. Maybe it's special order only. The olive drab green bag is $69.00. Both are made of 100% cordura nylon. I'm glad I got mine when it was $36.00 though.

NOTE: Sometime around 2000, they increased the price for the OD green bag from $36.00 to $69.00. They've now recently increased the price from $69.00 to $75.90 for the OD green bag.

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This page was last updated 21 JAN 08.



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