Arktis: Hype or Tripe?
Arktis is a name that many in the gear scene have heard of but don’t have any actual experience with. There are a multitude of reasons people choose to avoid them ranging from relatively poor coverage of their products to their prices being similar to better known brands. However, thanks to my irrepressible desire to stand out from the crowd of others running FSB impressions at Milsim West I decided to take the plunge and buy one of their waterproof smocks along with a pair of reinforced combat trousers. Upon receiving my items, I set out for the 40 hour milsim event ready to put my new clothes through the ringer. After spending 40 hours straight wearing this getup I’ve come up with a list of the good, the bad, and the ugly that should be more than sufficient to help you figure out whether or not Arktis’ gear is for you.
Let’s start by talking about the smock. Arktis’ claim to fame is that they manage to achieve stellar waterproofing using rip-stop fabric rather than technical fabrics such as Gore-tex® or other more commonly used but heavier materials, that often keep you dry from the rain on the outside but drench you in your own sweat. Knowing that the cosplay cabal I would be attending was in Virginia’s rainy season, I opted for their B310 Waterproof Combat Smock. The big difference offered between this and their standard B110 smock is the addition of a drop liner to protect the inward-facing side of the fabric from contact with the skin that would damage the waterproofing over time. On top of this, it adds a bit of bulk that stops rain from whipping up into the smock through areas such as the cuffs and the collar. A wire-framed hood that juts out around two to three inches further than the rest of the hood prevents rain from hitting your face even when the wind picks up. Considering how many hours I spent in the rain I was startled how dry I was, considering the downpour was nothing short of torrential at times.
The Arktis smock is also rather well fitted when compared to other options on the market; meaning it’s not hanging off you in a baggy manner like many others. This allows for all the convenience of a smock’s storage space without the sag and bag that snags on the environment around you. This also helps cut down on the weight as there isn’t as much excess material. I also found that load bearing equipment fit better over this smock as it wasn’t swallowed in a sea of cloth.
All of this being said, the smock is certainly not without it’s downsides. The biggest one that came to mind was how unbearably warm it became during the day when worn completely closed. I imagine this wouldn’t have been a problem had I bought the B110 instead as it lacks the drop liner, however that would’ve been less waterproof. At night the temperatures dropped to around 40-50°F, at which point just the jacket, pants, and base layers became too cold for comfort when inactive. This isn’t necessarily a major point against the jacket or pants if you keep in mind that it’s designed to be waterproof, not for general purposes.
The bungee cord and locker adjustments on the jacket didn’t impress me, either. While they worked, the cord lockers didn’t really take hold of the bungees so they had to be readjusted occasionally. Fortunately for me the only cord locker on the jacket that I used was the chest adjustment, but there is another one at the waist that others might have to use.
The trousers were more of a mixed bag in my opinion. I got the C130 Reinforced Combat Trousers and right off the bat noticed a few oddities that I should point out, such as the fact that the crotch zipper is upside down. This confused me as I’m fairly sure Arktis is an English company, not an Australian one.
One of the most unique design features of these trousers is the “Combat Waist System,” which is Arktis’ name for what can only be summarized as two pieces of webbing sewn into the waist then threaded through a glide buckle on either side as a sort of internal belt. This also seems to have an effect on the pocket size, as it takes the extra room for larger waist sizes from the material in the pockets. This system also uses two beefy hook & loop fields at the 11 and 1 o’clock positions instead of the more traditional trouser fly. While in theory this stops anything from poking into your gut, I noticed more often than not that the velcro would slip ever so slightly and would tear up my underwear or my skin as the male side was mounted facing the skin. It’s a great system, but in my opinion it could be refined for more user-comfort. I still consider the “combat waist system” to be a positive because it allows for a great level of adjustment in the waist, although some may prefer a less complicated system
I also noticed right away that despite having padded knees, these trousers are pretty lightweight. They felt more like wearing slacks than your average bulked up combat trousers, which made for a nice change of pace when actually moving in them. The padding was substantial enough to be comfortable while kneeling for long periods of time, but thin and tight enough to the body that they didn’t knock around or feel like they were in the way like Crye knee pads do when they’re not strapped down. They also didn’t interrupt airflow and cause sweat to pool up like other pads do. All of this combined with the half-zipper calves to turn your trousers into tactical bell bottoms made these pants a joy to wear when the temperatures reached 85°F at the event on Saturday afternoon.
There were really only two things that I find that were definitively unfavorable about the pants, and that was the waterproofing and the cord lockers around the ankles. For the waterproofing, I noticed quickly that the kneepad pockets seemed to be either less waterproof than the rest of the pants or completely devoid of waterproofing. This meant that the foam kneepads sponged up water and became less than pleasant to move around in. This was still less annoying than the cord locker “blousing straps”. Though they might allow for a tighter, cleaner closure than hook & loop, no matter what I did I could never stop the knots, bows, or tucks from coming undone. The cord lockers would come loose, causing me to step on and break them. At one particular point on a rocky ridge they got stuck between my boots and the stone ruining my footing and making for a couple painful landings that eventually lead to a rather upsetting tear in my pants. I tried just about every way to keep them out of the way, but they always came undone, creating a hazard in the process.
At the end, where does Arktis stand? If you ask me, they’re a solid brand with innovative gear that isn’t always executed to the best of their abilities. They’re within 90% of what I believe they’re capable of, which is more than good enough for me. If you like staying dry (except for when you piss yourself because you forget that the zipper is on upside down) Arktis is the brand for you.