The technology supporting our military service members has been developing at a rapid rate across the past five decades. When you look at what is publicly known about the Land Warrior program, it becomes glaringly obvious that millions if not billions of dollars are being spent to make sure that the American soldier is the best-trained, best-equipped and best-supported fighter on any future battlefield. Even with all of that technology taken into consideration, the most valuable piece of equipment on the field of battle is still the PERSON in the uniform. A lot has changed in uniforms in regard to design features, but the technology of camouflage has come a long way, too. From OD Green to woodland camo to digital woodland and now...multi-cam. Multi-cam has been around for a while, and Tru-Spec now has Battle Dress Uniforms available in this versatile pattern.
Most of us who have served in the past decade or more are familiar with the "classic" battle dress uniform or BDU. Different from the current issue Army Combat Uniform, or ACU, the BDU didn't have the slash pockets on the shoulders or the high collar neck and rank insignia was worn on both lapels (for enlisted). When the military evolved from the classic BDU to the current ACU, they also evolved from woodland camo to digital patterns. From a distance those digital patterns look good, but up close they still just look like a collection of squares of different colors--which is what they are.
The Tru-Spec BDUs that are the topic of this review are of the classic BDU design, but using the Crye Precision Multi-cam pattern. Now, if you take a close look at it, multi-cam doesn't appear to be a digital pattern. Do some research, and guess what you find? It is indeed digital. According to the history information I can find about the development of multi-cam, the pattern was developed by Crye Precision in cooperation with the Army's Soldier Research Center at Natick. The question they were trying to answer was whether or not a single camo pattern could be developed that would work equally well in desert, woodland, open field, urban areas, etc.
Apparently the multi-cam pattern was specifically designed to take advantage of reflective light, naturally occurring patterns, and the fact that a good camo pattern will work well in numerous environments. The end result was a digital pattern that doesn't look digital at all--no small squares here. So, what does this mean on a classic BDU?
Before the military adopted the new BDU design, many law enforcement agencies--along with other public safety organizations--had adopted the classic BDU as their uniform. Some of those same folks have to work in varying environments on a regular basis. Heck, my own home county sheriff's SWAT guys have to be ready to work in fields, woods, cities, marine environments, and more. I can't remember how many times I've heard them discussing what the next day's uniform would be. Where are we going? What are we doing? Multi-cam answers a lot of questions for them. But they didn't or don't need the new design ACU, so now Tru-Spec has the classic BDU design in the multi-cam pattern.
The BDU has a lot going for it as a field uniform. The blouse, or shirt, has two large cargo pockets on the bottom front and two decent sized breast pockets. I know at least one gentleman who served with the British military who told me that they had rearranged the pockets on theirs. They took all the pockets off and put the breast pocket material onto the shoulders. The cargo pockets were then moved up to where the breast pockets had been. In doing this they created a blouse that could be tucked into the pants without giving up any pocket storage space. Interesting idea I've tried in the past. I'm 5-10 and 200 pounds. I've got a 46" chest and I'm hear to tell you that the cargo pockets take up A LOT of space across your chest if you do this. BIG guys will have more luck with this reconfiguration. The elbows on the blouse are reinforced to put up with the abuse and abrasion that is inevitable during field ops.
The BDU pants have reinforced knees, adjustable waist via pull tabs, and a button crotch instead of a zipper. The cuffs have ties built into them, but I virtually always pull and cut these out. If my pants need to be bloused, I just tuck them into my boots. It's not everyone's favorite way of working, but it's always done well by me. The back pockets have button flaps with the front (hip) pockets being in the typical open design. The cargo pockets on either thigh are plenty roomy and also close via a button flap.
When I think about some of the "civilian" clothing available, I can't help but wonder how come the BDU design has never incorporated some of the pockets or features other popular design brands enjoy. I'd love a knife pocket on the front of my BDU pants or the ability to put neoprene kneepads INSIDE the BDU pants, rather than having them wrap around. Just a few thoughts...
I've had my Tru-Spec Multi-cam BDUs for a couple weeks and have worn them quite a bit. They are as comfortable as I've come to expect from BDU clothing. The military testing that has been performed repeatedly on the Crye Precision Multi-Cam pattern shows that it works very well. I expect that it will be incorporated into the next generation of uniform, whatever that may be.