BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms) consist of a shirt and pants. I will review the winter-weight pants now and add more as I make more visits to the army surplus store.

Pants: Tech Specs

BDU pants come in two varieties: a summer weight version made of cotton ripstop and a winter weight version made of a poly-cotton twill. They come in olive drab, black, khaki, and several different varieties of camoflauge. There are reinforcement patch on the knees and crotch to make them harder to tear. The cuffs contain ties that make them more secure and to make it easier to form a proper boot blouse. The pants are six pocket cargo pants that use buttons to fasten everything. You can adjust the waist with two cotton pull-tabs.

Pants: The Subjective Experience

The pants are roomy and fairly comfortable. They do not restrict your motion, which makes sense when you consider that most people who wear them face getting blown up on a fairly regular basis. You don't want to have anything restricting your movements while you are diving into a foxhole. The pants are a little scratchy at first, but after a few washings they aren't bad at all. The pants have two main drawbacks. The first is the use of square corners in the pockets and reinforcement patches. Anyone who has ever studied portholes knows that a square edge is weak; the pants prove this. The corners tend to get caught on things and tear the pants. The second is that the buttons on the fly break easily and if you go commando this is a very bad thing.

They are fairly inexpensive pants and this offsets the problems with the buttons and corners. Overall, I'd rate them as a strong buy.

Jacket: Tech Specs

I've only worn my winter weights, so that's what I'll be reviewing. I obtained my oddly ironed jacket from my uncle, who was in the service for eight years during the early nineties. This thing looks like it could (and has) survive a close-range mortar hit. Not that that's a bad thing in a uniform. The twill is a 50/50 cotton/nylon blend which I bet would be fairly comfortable if their wasn't so much starch in it. It keeps the cold out pretty well for its weight. There are four big rectangular pockets with fold-over flaps, convenient for holding a cell phone you're not supposed to have during formation. The elbows are reinforced with an extra layer of material, giving it that nice bending-steel feeling when I bend my arms. The cuffs have three buttons space along the outer circumference to allow you to adjust for wrist size. The collar should be ironed into a strict V-shape and feel kind of like a metal collar. As with everything in the military, starch it. Some of the civilian manufactured (or just newer) BDUs have a small tab you can hook on to buttons on your side to adjust the fit around your waist, but mine doesn't have it.

Jacket: The Subjective Experience

The jacket itself feels like a species of cardboard due to the amazing amount of starch my uncle managed to iron into it, but apparently that's that way it's supposed to be and if you buy one of these beasts you'll have to do that yourself, so don't worry about it. The absence of zippers or any other modern convenience kind of limits the jacket's functionality, but I guess when you're sneaking behind enemy lines a loud "ZIIIIP!" as you reach for the ammo is out of the question. Sizing is my main problem- most of these things are made for wide ranges of sizes (read: from gargantuan to roughly the size of Godzilla), and I'm not in that magical range. These things are meant to be loose-fitting, though, so just pick the one closest to you and hope for the best. The cuffs give me a little trouble (I have small wrists)- when I hook it on the second button (the only way to keep the sleeves from sliding down over my hands during drill) the extra fabric pooches out everywhere. The jacket laughs in the face of dirt and water if you give it a periodic coating of Scotchgard. I have a feeling the Scotchgard combined with the starch may make me spontaneously combust.

All in all, it's a uniform, and an unusually comfy one at that. Just remember- BDUs provoke a variety of reactions in people. They either (a) expect you to whip out an M-16 and hold up the place, (b) start telling you about their days in the service and tell you to polish your boots, (c) mock you ceaselessly, or (d) get out of your way.

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