Now this is funny, picture it your own mind…  Five guys, stalking a group of eight or ten hogs.  It’s around midnight, and with clear skies the three quarter moon is providing great light for this night vision tactical hog hunt.  You almost don’t need night vision, a real plus if you’re a hog hoping to make it through the night.  We spot hogs in a wheat field.  Five guys form a single line to minimize our visual presence to the hogs.  We have various weapon and night vision configurations, and various kinds of camo.  Our guide is armed with an open umbrella, leading the way.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Maybe he should have gotten some black Vertx Phantom LT apparel.

As it happens, our guide was wearing light colored, low contrast camo.  He almost glowed in the night vision (NV) monocular I was using, and was plenty visible to the naked eye.  His black umbrella served to break up his ghostly silhouette.

On the literal opposite end of the spectrum, SHWAT™ Founder Stephen Owen and I were outfitted with Vertx shirts and pants – black ones. Really black ones.  More on that, in a moment, but about now someone will raise the antidotal idea that since hogs eyes are not their major strength, who cares what’s worn in the dark?  It seems the number of people who care goes up directly with the prospects of actually closing distance on hogs in the dark!

Here’s what you need to know as you read the rest of this:  I value quality, have a strong affinity for functionally discrete gear, and there’s no chance that Vertx had tactical hog hunting in mind when creating this gear for their target user, the “Operational Athlete.”  Per their website: “It was designed in cooperation with SWAT and military operators interested in a clean, functional approach to high incident tactical wear.”

You don’t have to read to the end of the review to figure out that I like this gear, and will be getting more of it.  The real questions revolve around why.

Tactical NV opsTactical clothing wasn’t created for fashion, but function.  However, it’s become fashionable in certain circles.  With the dictates of tacticool style in mind, if a cargo pocket is good, a bigger cargo pocket is better.  If nine pockets are good, nineteen are better.

Don’t get me wrong, looking like you belong, like you know what you’re doing has it’s own merits. Vertx delivers on both the Men’s Phantom LT Pant and the Gunfighter Phantom LT Top.

Taken together, this combo both looks great and functions great.  They follow the Vertx approach to low profile tactical apparel.  I think of it as understated, but hyper functional.  Understated, in that the lines are clean, but subtlety aggressive.  Instead of looking like you’re wearing molle remnants, you can blend.  With the exception of pant’s rear pockets, all the pockets are internal.  Not only does this clean up the lines, it quiets the clothing and cuts down on snags and catches.

Now we’re talking functionality.  When hog hunting, quiet pays in pork.  Without bulky external pockets, and without noisy hook and loop closures on those pockets, you gain an edge on quiet movement.  What do you give up?  Pocket count, when measured against some others.  On the other hand, I have yet to use all the pockets on the pants, and the top seems about right.

Another aid to keeping quiet is the material.  Have you ever had a pair of pants that just ripped out a steady swish shwish as the inner thighs of the pant legs rubbed against each other while you walked?  Both Vertx garments in this review are made of a lightweight mini rip-stop fabric, 65% polyester and 35% cotton.  This blend, along with some mad scientist stuff in a chemistry lab somewhere, is quiet.

The quiet is eclipsed by its comfortable functionality.  Comfort checks in first with the fabric, second with range of motion.  Did you watch the men’s gymnastics competitions at the Olympics last summer?  I seriously think they could compete wearing these Vertx garments.

The knees of the pants are double gusseted, as is the crotch.  The sleeves on the Gunfighter LT top struck me as surprisingly long.  Even Vertx pictures show them bunched up near the cuffs.  But on the stalk, whether walking, crawling or engaging hogs, I never noticed.  The armpits are gusseted.

vertx hog huntingComfort also factors into the fabric’s moisture handling properties.  We all know that everything you see on the Internet, especially glowing reviews, can be suspect.  Vertx claims a push-pull combo in moisture handling.  That is, moisture is pushed away from the fabric externally while pulled away from the wearer’s skin internally.  They call it Intelli-Dry™.  Unlike some other tactical apparel with moisture wicking properties that don’t breath well or wear hot, we found these Vertx pieces remain comfortable whether wicking on the inside or repelling on the outside.

I saw a video online where a tester poured some water on the outside surface of the fabric.  The water just pooled, and then ran off virtually without a trace.  Then water was poured on the inside of the shirt.  It was absorbed.  Seriously?  Pretending I was on a Discovery Channel show whose name rhymes with myth busters, I skeptically went to the kitchen and tried it.  Confirmed.  It works.

One more thing before we touch on specs and some noteworthy details.  Have you ever seen West Texas red dirt?  Have you ever crawled through it in a plowed field? If so, you know it’ll ruin a lot of things quickly.  The Phantom top and pant got plenty dirty, three nights in a row.  All it took to clean them up for pics and reuse was a quick brush off by hand – and these are deep dyed blacks!  They are blacker than most of my black T-shirts, and more fade resistant than 100% cotton, and machine washable.  They do a pretty good job of avoiding wrinkles as such things go.

utility notchMen’s Phantom LT Pant

  • Accommodates wide belts
  • Utility notch holds a knife or tool out of the way for primary pocket access.
  • Front hand pockets are large enough to conceal carry a variety of pistols.
  • Range of motion enhanced by articulated knees, gussets.
  • Big cuffs.  This struck me as a little different initially.  If you regularly ankle carry a pistol, you’ll like this.  Or maybe you’d like to try fitting some snake boots inside the pant leg… Well, they’re not bell bottoms, but extra roomy for sure.
  • Discrete pockets, and pockets within pockets.  Pockets are cut and sewn into the pants, not onto the pants (except for the rear, jeans like pockets).  Even the rear pockets have an internal trap for a wallet, etc.  The side cargo pockets securely hold your gear without hook and loop, and each has an internal pocket perfect for a cell phone or AR-15 magazine.
  • Stretch waistband.  Very nice, allowing you to order your favorite size, but still have the option to concealed carry inside the waistband.
  • Concealed, really concealed, zippered pocket on the right side.  If you didn’t know it was there, you might miss it.

Gunfighter Phantom LT Top

  • The stand up collar really stands out on this top. The design protects neck from slings and flying brass, good things, no doubt.  It gives the shirt part of its distinctive look, and you’ll love it, hate it, or let it grow on you (my case).
  • Zipper closure hidden under flap.  Maybe that’s the difference between “top” and “shirt.” Again, this provides a distinctive look and is entirely functional. The ability to zip and unzip to adjust for comfort temp and body heat after chasing down hogs is hard to argue with.  When I first got it, it reminded me of either a Kung Fu top, something from the Matrix movies, or priest’s shirt, sans the white collar.  Some won’t like the look, but it grew on me.
  • Fairly discreet zippered bicep pockets.  These are good sized.  I think you could put the iPad Mini in one.  And there’s loop Velcro™ on them for your favorite SHWAT™ patch (shhh… they’re still in the works!)
  • If you’re the kind of shooter or hunter who relies on radios, you’ll appreciate the clean comms wire pass through.
  • Vertx did a great job avoiding noisy hook and loop closures, right up to this point. Love it or not, the wrist closures are fast to operate standard Velcro™.

There’s a lot of well-made highly durable tactical gear available to shooters, hunters and airsoft junkies on the market today.  Not all of is equally comfortable, equally durable, much less equally discrete.  How much good is such clothing if you don’t enjoy wearing it?  I can’t wait to see what else I can order from Vertx.

Vertx Phantom LT pants can be found at select retailers and online.  Street price is between fifty and sixty dollars.  The Gunfighter Phantom LT Top can be found in the same places for ninety to one-hundred dollars.

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