Why You Should Always Carry a Tactical Flashlight

I’m not sure when I started carrying a tactical flashlight, but now I won’t travel without one. Why? Protection! Finding lost things! Adventuring! Oh, let me count the ways!

Before I launch into a rhapsody (okay, an enthusiastic listicle) about why I love tactical flashlights, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Tactical flashlights are meant to be used with weapons and in other tactical contexts. They tend to be very bright, water resistant, and tough. (Here’s a brief overview from Art of Manliness.) Lots of preppers (and non-prepper people who like to have more-than-average levels of preparedness) carry them every day.

I’ve carried a Streamlight ProTac 2AA for four or five years now.

 

Why should you invest in a tactical flashlight? Let me count the reasons:

  1. See human attackers first
    Carrying a flashlight helps diminish the element of surprise that muggers and other no-good characters rely on. If you can see into the dark alleys and grimy corners, they can’t hide there.
  2. See animal attackers first
    This is less relevant in certain parts of the world, but is still a useful bonus.  At the very least you won’t be startled when a hungry, mangy pup approaches you after dark.
  3. Temporarily disrupt attackers’ vision
    Tactical flashlights are usually much brighter than their standard issue cousins. If you’re carrying one, you’ve got a chance to shine the light in any attacker’s eyes, disrupting their vision enough to give you the temporary upper hand.
  4. Can be used as an improvised weapon
    I mean, you’ll be carrying a small but solid tube of metal. It’d hurt to get hit with a tactical flashlight. Plus, they’re pretty much universally legal! (There’s still a slim but real chance they’ll get confiscated if you go through strict security, though.)
  5. You always have a tough flashlight on hand
    Every point in favor of tactical flashlights up to this point has been about self-defense applications. Those are valid, of course, but let’s not lose sight of what flashlights are for: seeing in the dark. If you’re out exploring abandoned buildings or ancient temples or picking your way through a swampy campground to the toilet in the middle of the night, a tough flashlight will make things much easier on you. It’ll probably be tough enough to survive getting dropped in the toilet or knocked off a castle wall, so you’ll be able to use it for future adventures, too!
  6. Improve your night visibility
    Make it easier for cars to see you if you’re out after dark without reflective gear. (Just don’t blind any drivers, please.)
  7. Good for living where electricity is spotty
    Tactical flashlights easily fit in (men’s) pockets and often come with a clip and holster. If you’re spending time somewhere where the electricity isn’t reliable, having a flashlight on hand 24/7 will make your life easier.
  8. Good for finding things
    I thought I was the only one who relies on their tactical flashlight for finding lots items, but I am apparently not the only one! (This writer uses his to find remotes, I use mine to find stuff in the bottom of bags and drawers.) Seriously, this perk is practically worth the ticket price.
  9. Good for exploring ancient ruins before the sun rises
    What do you mean this hasn’t happened to you before?

    The first sunrise of 2015 over Angkor Wat.

     

    Oh, and I guess you can use them to shoot guns in the dark. That’s a thing, too.

Convinced that you need to add a tactical flashlight to your next packing list? I hope so! If you’ve got questions (or even more uses for tactical flashlights), drop ’em in the comments.

I am not affiliated with Streamlight or any of the sites linked in this article.

Fall/Winter 2016: College Budget Technical Clothing Haul

Here are some quick reviews of shirts and pants I’ve gotten over the past few months. I’ll write these posts every so often to keep you up to date with travel clothes that are actually worth it.

This haul features a lot of H&M tencel and some Mountain Khakis pants. Read on for full opinions!

H&M long sleeve tencel shirt ($10)

This shirt is strange. I wanted a light, long-sleeved shirt that would cut the sun a bit and provide comfortable coverage for hot, conservative countries. I don’t hate this shirt, but it’s not what I was expecting. It’s got very tight sleeves, for one thing, so it’s uncomfortable to push them up. (I hate having my lower arms covered, so this is an issue for me.) It also hangs strangely around the shoulders and it’s l o n g. It’s practically a tunic. The stitches on the hems also look cheaply made.

Verdict? If you like the fit and want something cheap for a short-term trip, by all means get it! I won’t be getting it again.

H&M tencel tank top ($13) and tencel t-shirt ($15)

Both the tank and the shirt are built similarly. They fit nicely, although the neck drapes a little strangely on the t-shirt. Both shirts are incredibly soft and silky, and I frequently sleep in them after wearing them for the day. In certain lights or with certain bras, they’re a tad see-through. In general, I like them. I could do with another tencel tank, in particular.

H&M Tencel/Cotton/Modal jeans ($30)

Yep, this is the best picture I have of the pants.

Oh, boy. Yes, I know these jeans are more like jeggings, and yes, I know they’re cheaply made. But man. They are so comfortable I’m just choosing to ignore all that. They’re skinny without being suffocating and comfortable to wear while sitting for long periods. They also stretch nicely, meaning my movement’s not restricted, and they’re light wash, so they’re not super hot even in blazing sun. I’ve worn them on multiple flights, on field work, and for three days straight at Disneyland. No, they’re not perfect, but man, do I ever love them.

Mountain Khakis pants ($20, typically $90)

Mountain Khakis Traverse Pants Review
Mountain Khakis Traverse Pants

I got these deeply discounted during Mountain Khaki’s fall sale. I’ve already posted a full review of these, which you can see here.

Review: Mountain Khakis Traverse Pants

Ever since I discovered Mountain Khakis, I’ve been intrigued by their Traverse pants. They’ve got a yoga pant look but brag about being tough enough for rock climbing. They’re also DWR coated, meaning water falls right off them.

When the seasons change, I poke around at my favorite brands to find out who’s got the best sales. The Traverse pants were on sale for $20, a huge discount from their usual $90 price tag. The only hiking pants I had at the time were too big and soaked up the sun like no body’s business, leaving me uncomfortably hot on my once a week field geology treks. I ordered a pair the same day, even though I had to buy a 4 petite. (I usually wear a 2 regular.) Would they fit? I wasn’t sure, but for that price, I was willing to find out.

 

The good news: they fit! If you compare the fit when I wear them to the fit on the models, you can tell they’re a tad off—they sit a little lower and the hips are a slightly different shape. It’s not obvious, though, and because they sit lower, on the wider part of my hips instead of at my natural waist, the petite inseam isn’t an issue.

If you compare the fit when I wear them to the fit on the models, you can tell they’re a tad off—they sit a little lower and the hips are a slightly different shape. It’s not obvious, though, and because they sit lower, on the wider part of my hips instead of at my natural waist, the petite inseam isn’t an issue.

Mountain Khakis Traverse Pants Review

Mountain Khakis Traverse Pants Reveiw

I’m kinda in love with the fabric. It’s super silky but strong, and I’m not worried at all about transparency or ripping. It’s also super comfortable in the heat, as long as you’re not sitting in broad sunlight for long periods of time.

I was surprised by how much I liked the color. It looks kinda “eh” online, but it’s much more pleasant in person. It’s neutral, but not boring, which I appreciate.

The design is 90% yoga pants (the fit, the waist, the fabric), 10% hiking pants (there’s a logo on the back of the calf and the legs have those odd, sporty cross-calf seams). They’re not tight around the hips, like so many yoga pants are, which I appreciate.

The only real downside to these pants is that they can’t really be dressed up. They look a lot better than regular hiking pants if you want something versatile, but the yoga pant style waist and hiking pant style legs make it clear these pants are meant for moving, not pairing with pumps and heading to a ballet.

The verdict? I like them enough that if something happens to them, I’d be willing to shell out the 90$ non-sale price for another pair.

 

 

 

June 2016: Clothing News and Updates

If you haven’t guessed yet, I am a total tech clothing geek. I follow companies on Instagram. I tweet them on twitter. I have lists of them that I’ll check up on seasonally to see if anything’s new. It’s not a big niche, but there’s interesting stuff happening, if you take the time to look! If you don’t have the time, it’s probably because you’re spending it on something on your to-do list instead of hyperfocusing on Googling variations of “women’s technical DWR pants” for hours. But hey. If I’m researching it, I might as well share it, right? Hopefully, these posts will come every six months, give or take. Maybe by then we’ll be in a world where hours-long Google hunts for the perfect pair of stain-repellent chinos is a thing of the past.

Good News:

Pivotte‘s now selling one of the tank colors that wasn’t unlocked in their Kickstarter campaign. I’m not super into it, but I’m still glad to see new things from them. (I’m sure there are some people out there who wear yellow, I’m just not one of them.)

Anatomie, one of the biggest names in women’s technical travel clothing, is starting a men’s line!

The Willary  is just now rolling out a new color for their core pants. They’ve also got shirts, apparently. SHIRTS! They’re super cute and I’m pumped, even without any technical specs out yet.

Odo Jeans is getting ready to ship perks to their Kickstarter backers. (No link on this one as I’ve been getting my updates via backer emails.) I am super ready to test mine out as a summer camp counselor and on my trip to Montana this summer. I am a little anxious about the fit, though. A review will be posted once they’re received and I form an opinion.

Dish and Duer‘s model is similar to Betabrand’s, except instead of crowdfunding individual garments, they Kickstart product lines. Right now they’re working on a new line specifically for travel. There are three styles, one for business travel, one for adventure travel, and one for leisure travel, each with a men’s and women’s version. In addition to a technical fabric blend (which all the pants are made of), most pants have hidden pockets and seat gussets. They’re also available in a nice range of colors. Keep an eye on these!

On a personal note, I’ve updated my dressy travel pants guide! I’m working on lots of other gear stuff at the moment, because apparently it’s my new hobby.

 

Bad News:

Makers and Riders seem to have discontinued their whole women’s line. So that’s cool.

 

Only News to Me:

In addition to Dish and DU/ER, I recently discovered two companies: Alchemy Equipment and Mountain Khakis. Alchemy Equipment seems to be known for their luggage, but they’ve also got some down to earth technical clothing in wearable designs. Mountain Khakis have options for women’s DWR khakis (duh), as well as technical jeans, among others. Check them out! I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on them.

tech-clothing-update-2016

New Project to Watch: Lifepack

A woman walking down a city street with a Lifepack on.

I’m always looking cool, innovative new gear, especially on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Recently, I stumbled across a neat project called Lifepack.

Lifepack’s got a sleek design, separate spaces for clothes and work gear, a solar charger, integrated lock, RFID-blocking hidden pockets, and a water-resistant finish. There’s a few things I’m tentative about, but a few things I like  a lot.

First, the positives. The creators have a pretty good track record – they’ve already got one well-received project under their belts, Interlock. Their project time line shares experiences a lot of us are familiar with, including sleeping with backpack straps twisted around legs to prevent theft. The RFID-blocking pockets are a fantastic addition, the built-in lock seems lightweight and practical, and the solar charger set up is nothing short of brilliant. The design is sleek, not too bulky or outdoorsy. If the campaign makes its next stretch goal, which seems likely since they’ve got half their backing period left and already raised 1242% of their initial goal, they’ll offer a black version of the pack.

I am tentative about a few things, though. First, straps. How does it sit? Does it have any back ventilation? The lack of across the chest or around the waist straps is a drawback for me. I’m not keen on the Bluetooth speakers, but since they’re integrated into the solar panel system they shouldn’t take up too much weight. Also, I’d love a regular outlet option, instead of only the USB chargers.

If you want to pre-order a pack at a discount, there are still 125$ and 150$ options left.  And hey, if you get one  and write a review, let me know. I’ll link the first four or five reviews people point me to.

The Search for the Elusive Women’s Technical Clothing

The search for the perfect travel garment is an experience fraught with sticker shock and weeding through pages of shapeless, overly pocketed clothes. For every check on the “perfect” list, there’s at least one on the “skip it” list. Found some pants are light and don’t wrinkle? They’re hot in the summer and have a pocket count to make a geologist blush. Find a shirt that’s comfortable and cool in the heat? Mark my words, it’ll wrinkle like no one’s business.

I keep searching for the perfect travel clothing. I’ve been on this mission for a while now, tweaking packing lists and combing thrift store racks for Eddie Bauer cast-offs. After lots of searching and lots of not-quite-right clothes, my checklist for these magical articles looks something like this:

-Wrinkle resistant
-Not bulky; packs light
-Cool in the summer; can layer in the winter
-Attractive enough to not embarrass myself in the Met or at an upscale restaurant
-Tough enough to withstand hiking, biking, camels, boats, etc.
-Stain resistant and/or a stain hiding color
-Comfortable enough to sleep in
-Not ridiculously expensive

Shopping with lofty ideas like these and wanting women’s cuts and sizes is despairingly difficult. A handful of companies offer clothing that hit some of these marks, mostly designed for bike commuters. Some brands, like Levi’s, have started commuter lines, to mixed reviews. Some brands make only men’s clothing (my brother recommends Ministry of Supply). This is fine, of course – not every company can do everything. What I don’t understand is the rationale of brands like Outlier, which appear to have discontinued their whole women’s line, or ProofNY, which was offline for much of 2015. There is one company that specializes in women’s technical clothing, Anatomie, but their clothing strikes me as overly stylized and exorbitantly priced for the features. If you’re looking for stylish, fashionable women’s technical clothing, you’re pretty much limited to BetaBrand, Rohan, and Nau. Many large companies still cater to the backpacking/field science crew and haven’t quite caught on to the idea that one piece of clothing can be both good looking and technical.

Yours truly living it up in the ugliest pants EMS sold.
Yours truly living it up in the ugliest pants EMS sold, circa 2012. EMS appears to have improved since then.

There really aren’t any other options, and believe me, I’ve looked. (If you know of more, please tell me in the comments!) But I have some hope, because there’s a new player on the field: Odo Jeans.

While most technical clothing companies are relatively young, Odo is practically still in the womb. As of January 4, 2016, their Kickstarter has been up for less than a month. The pants are only available to backers right now, but at a heavy discount over their planned retail price, so I shelled out some Christmas money and pre-ordered a pair.

Part of the reason I’m excited is that ODO Jeans’ women’s sizes mirror men’s sizes. You know, where pant sizes are assigned based on inseam and waist measurements instead of dark magic and bad astrology?

Yeah, so there’s that.

ODO Jeans
ODO Jeans

The pants promise a lot. Their big pitch is that you don’t have to wash them, because they don’t stain and they don’t smell. That seems like a stretch to me, but even if I have to wash them less, it’ll still be worth it. I can’t tell you if they’re the perfect pants, because they don’t ship until sometime this summer. Maybe they wrinkle easily and are as hot as wearing flannel under chain mail, but I hope not. For good or ill, expect updates this summer, when the real testing begins.

Update 1/8/16: I just received a backer email telling me that ODO has reached a stretch goal and plans on offering a light-weight version of their jeans! Another box checked, if we’re lucky!

Update 2/22/2016: Proof NY has either shut down for good or for the long run. I’m on their email list, so I’ll update if I hear anything. For now, maybe browse two other companies I’ve recently discovered: Pivotte Studio and The Willary. The former is pricey, the latter’s offerings are a little sparse, but they’re much better than nothing and I’m hopeful for their future.

Gear Round Up: Women’s Travel Pants

Ever gotten caught in a rainstorm and gotten your jeans soaked? Fought those uncomfortable creases you get when you sit in tight pants for too long? Gotten a stain you just couldn’t remove? Moaned about the tiny pockets on women’s pants?

I feel ya, friend. There are solutions out there – four way stretch fabric that looks as nice as it feels, treatments that resist water and stains, pockets that are smart phone sized. But they’re ridiculously hard to find. Brands discontinue beloved products (see the bottom of this post for obituaries), other companies are just starting up, others bury their ideal pants in a heap of “not-quite-it” garments. It can be a real mess to sort through, so I’ve done the work for you! Below are 9 pants that fit several of my requirements for the perfect travel pant. Pants are listed from cheapest to most expensive.

Prana Meme Pant, 85 USD

 

Image is from the Fitful Focus blog. You can read her review here: https://fitfulfocus.com/fit-fashionable-friday-prana-meme-pant/

What an unfortunately named garment. (I can imagine the disastrous boardroom discussion: “what do kids like today, Harold?” “MEMES.”) Yikes
Happily, it looks like it performs better than its name would suggest.

Pros:
-Two clean patterns and two colors (including lighter colors if you’re heading into a hot climate)
DWR (durable water repelent) treated
-stretchy
-plenty of pockets!
-wrinkle resistant
-quick dry

Cons:
Not your pants if you’re looking for dressy. I’ve seen them in action and they don’t exactly pass for nice-dinner-out pants.
-DWR treatment means some limitations on washing

Options:

Prana sells another pant, the Halle, that’s a bit dressier and better-named. It comes in sizes 2-14 and five different colors, with three inseam lengths available.

Levi’s Commuters88 USD

 

Pros:
-Water resistant via ECOREPEL
-Jean feel and cut
-Multiple colors, including light ones
-Stretchy
-Extra deep pockets
-Reflective strips (for biking)

Cons:
-Mixed reviews regarding how water resistant they actually are
-Since they’re jeans, they’ll be hot in hot weather

 

BetaBrand’s Travel Cargo Pants, 98 USD

 

BetaBrand’s clothes run the gamut from “really cool” to “what the heck?” But everything they make is voted on by customers and crowd funded, which means that there’s a demand for their weirder stuff…somewhere. (These pants are 98$, but if you use this link they’ll drop to 83. When I updated this post they were on sale for 49$.)

Pros:
-Four-way stretch
-DWR
-low profile and hidden pockets
-two colors
-regular, long, and petite sizing
-BetaBrand’s sale scheme means that you essentially never have to pay the stated price.

Cons:
-Some strangely placed pockets are no doubt practical, but look a little odd
-Limited color options
-Reviews note possible issues with fit and stitching.

Dish and Du/er Pants (Example is 109 USD)

This is the only generic company post on this list. It is also the only post that doesn’t include water repellent pants, because I don’t want you to pass it up. These folks make performance denim that’s tough, wicking, and stretchy, with odor and temperature control features as well. Most of their pants have extra coverage in the back and reinforced stress points. They do carry DWR jeans, but only for men. They size by waist and inseam and have a huge variety of cuts and colors.

ODO Jeans, 115 USD

 

I backed Odo’s kickstarter, so now I’m watching them closely, a mix between an investor and a proud parent. I don’t have my jeans yet (a review is coming when I get them!), but I have high hopes for them.

Pros:
-two fits, three shades of blue plus black

-standard and light weight options
-reflectors for biking
-extra deep pockets
-impressive size range. Odo seems very focused on fit, which is great.
-water, stain, dirt resistant

Cons:
-I’m guessing they’re hot in hot weather

-Lightweight option isn’t available in black

Alchemy Equipment’s Stretch Tech Chinos, 180 NZD (~127 USD)

 

Pros:
-DWR for water and stain repelling
-Four-way stretch
-Abrasion resistant
-Dressy style
-Three colors

Cons:
-Sizes are XS-XL
-No pictures of the pants in different colors
-Several sizes are unavailable in particular colors.

Options:
-Alchemy has a sizeable women’s selection, but this seems to be the only pair of DWR pants.

 

Ligne 8’s Portia Classic Pant, 128 USD

Pros:
-durable, breathable stretch fabric
-water and stain resistant
-quick drying
-higher rise in the back
-grip tape at waistband
-anti-chafing gusset
-reflective binding on lower legs
-belt loops

Cons:
-Basic sizing (2,4,6 etc), no petite, tall options
-Biking features may be a bit much if you just want to travel
-Only one color available.

Options:
Ligne 8 has other, similar pants, like the Grace pant. They also have some nice DWR technical jeans.

Rohan’s Women’s Dry Roamers, 98£ (~140 USD)

 

Pic from foothills.uk.com
Pros:
-Three neutral colors
-DWR
-Moisture diffusing
-Hidden pocket
-Durable
-Quick drying
-Wrinkle resistant
-Lightweight
-Sizes up to 18, with short available

Cons:
-Nice and not too outdoors-y, but not exactly dressy
-Only sizes 8-18 available (good if you’re an 18, not so much if you’re on the smaller end)

Nau’s Device Pants, 145$

 

Pros:
-Two colors, sizes 2-14
-Zipper pockets (pro for security, con for style)
-DWR finish
-Reflective tape when pants are cuffed

Cons:
-Two-way, not four-way stretch
-No discussion of how light, wrinkle-resistant, or quick drying they are

Outerboro’s Motile Breeze Pants, 148 USD

 

Pros:
-three colors (Black, Shadow Gray, Dress Blue)
-light weight and quick dry
-DWR (stain and water resistant)
-four-way stretch fabric

Cons:
-Only 4 sizes
-As of writing, several options are out of stock

 

The Willary’s Pants, 198 USD

 

Pros:
-stain, water, abrasion resistant
-four way stretch with optimal recovery (meaning they won’t stretch out)
-hidden pocket, deep pockets
-belt loops (so many pants miss this somehow)
-made in the USA
-two fits

Cons:
-I’m not sure how well they wash, how quickly they dry, or how light they are.

Pivotte’s 24/7 Pants 220 USD

 

Pivotte’s a new kid on the block and I love their stuff. I hope they stick around because their simple-but-elegant designs and high tech fabrics are a wonderful combo. But 220 for pants? Ouch.

Pros:
-wrinkle resistant
-three colors
-hidden zippered pockets
-water, stain, dirt resistant
-4-way stretch

Cons:
-the price, as mentioned

BONUS ROUND: Bring them back, please?

Outlier Slimmer Dungarees

 

Outlier, I am hurt and betrayed. You had so much going for you – glowing reviews on page 1 of Google results! Funky color offerings! The reputation as the best women’s pants in the industry! A model doing something other than staring into the camera in a studio somewhere in San Francisco!

And then…nothing. You decided, for some reason, that it was a good time to discontinue your whole women’s line. Candidly?  That was a bad idea.

Proof NY Visser Pants

 

For women who like tech pants, Proof NY was first Outlier’s younger cousin. Then, when Outlier discontinued women’s products, they were the new go-to for women who biked to work. Proof NY has been essentially offline for about a year now. Perhaps they’ll make a return, if we’re lucky.

That’s it?

That’s it. I know. So few. It’s unfortunate, but hopefully we’ll have more options in the near future.

If you spot an error or know of another brand I should look into, please let me know in the comments.  I’m hoping to keep this list as thorough, updated, and accurate as possible. If you’ve written a review of any of these pants, I’d be happy to include a link in this post. Just hit me up here or on twitter.

 

UPDATE 6/18/16

-Switched the Ligne 8 Grace pants for Portia pants. I like the cut better, and they’re also 50$ cheaper.
-Added Alchemy, Rohan, and Nau pants.
-Added Dish and DU/ER.
-Removed Makers and Riders pants as the link was dead. They seem to have gone the way of Outlier by removing their women’s line.

UPDATE 3/6/17

Removed ODO Jeans because at worst they’re a scam and at best they’re wildly behind schedule with terrible customer service.
-Replaced pictures.
-Updated Pivotte pants to note new color available.

gearrounduppants