Crye Precision's Combat Shirt was never intended for pursuits as mundane as mere paintball. The small New York-based company, famous for creating the innovative Multicam multi-environment camouflage pattern and losing a gazillion-dollar Defense Department contract to uniform the entire US Army in the latest and greatest tactical apparel available, constructed the Combat Shirt as part of an integrated clothing system for the ground force warrior of the future. A Combat Shirt, the matching pants, and a Multicam tactical vest will make you look like you fell right out of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2...
But looks are just icing. What about the cake? That's what really matters -- especially at $115 a slice.
The Combat Shirt looks different from any other BDU top or paintball jersey you have ever seen. The collar and sleeves are made out of genuine Crye Multicam nylon-cotton twill fabric, which are then mated to a slinky, body-hugging stretch microfiber torso -- think Under Armour. The torso fabric is a highly elastic high-tech polyester with a high (19%) Spandex content and a weight somewhere between Under Armour Heatgear (which is light) and Under Armour Coldgear (which is heavier). The styling alone puts it in a class by itself.
It's GRAW-chic aside, the Combat Shirt is thoughtfully purpose-built to deliver to its wearer a range of tactical features appropriate to its specific application. First and foremost, It is a garment made to be worn with a tactical vest of some sort, whether you are a real-world military operator or a weekend woodsball warrior. Crye even manufactures a Range Vest as part of its combat apparel line to layer over the body of the shirt (and provide additional pockets and light-duty MOLLE attachments) when a full tactical vest is not being worn. If you are primarily a pod pack kind of paintballer, stop reading right here. The Combat Shirt ain't for you...
Conversely, for the Multicam paintball warrior who believes that the right gear kit can help make the difference between elimination and victory and counts on his trusty tactical vest in the heat of serious woodsball combat, the Combat Shirt is designed to maximize your performance while wearing your load-bearing gear. The tall Mandarin-style collar zips up in a stand-up configuration for substantial neck protection (against both vest chafing and stray paintballs!) or folds down when the shirt is zipped open and vented. Because the torso is clingy and breathable, it increases the comfort of a tactical vest dramatically. There is no bunching or wrinkling of fabric underneath your vest, and nothing rides up. Since the collar and sleeves are standard Crye Multicam 50-50 nylon-cotton fabric, you get good durability and abrasion-resistance on these exposed portions of the shirt, and the excellent color-receptive camouflage pattern closely matches Multicam printed on the 1000-Denier Cordura nylon from which most vests are stitched.
The Combat Shirt is designed not only to keep you thermostable (cool when it's hot and warm when it's cold) and wick away moisture but also to offer you a compression fit -- the tension of the stretch fabric on your muscles lends them support. When worn it feels like wearing your favorite T-shirt under your vest, only it never gets sweaty, comes untucked, or otherwise moves out of place. Freedom of movement is unequalled; there is never any binding through a full range of arm and torso motion. The light muscle compression effect is both noticeable and beneficial after a long day out on the paintball field, and 'ballers who favor compression garments can get the same performance benefits in a single layer of clothing that they used to get from a compression T-shirt under a BDU top. The only paintball-specific products I know of that can make this same claim is Special Ops' Undercover full-sleeve and short-sleeve shirt, and while they are both excellent items available at a lower cost, they lack the versatility and rugged abrasion-resistance of the Combat Shirt with its mixed-fabric construction.
Even with its athletic, performance-oriented design, the Crye top still manages to deliver some unique tactical features. Most noticeable are the pockets in the sleeves for their own model of push-through elbow pads. The Combat Elbow Pads use a closed-cell molded pad with a semi-rigid rubber cap stitched on top, constructed of a material similar to the abrasion-resistant polymer on Hatch or Alta elbow pads. The caps actually penetrate the sleeves through a hole in the outer later of the elbow, and a flange keeps it in place on the sleeve, while an elastic strap secures with Velcro around the wearer's forearm inside the sleeve before it is closed. When the hardcap pads are not in place, an extra layer of Multicam twill inside the elbow pocket closes up the hole. The Combat Elbow Pads are an additional expense to be considered ($30) and mandate an added step when donning the shirt, but once they are installed and secured, they stay in place comfortably and do their job. Even without the pads, the Combat Shirt's elbows work well to keep the dirt and grit out through a day of belly crawling and hitting the dirt repeatedly. The shirt has small zippered pockets with moderate bellows on either shoulder, covered with the familiar loop Velcro for attaching patches and insignia. These open forward by means of a standard zipper, handy for securing small, light items, but not so great for carrying anything big or heavy and rather hard to open with gloved hands. Aside from the smallish zipper pulls, every other detail of the Combat Shirt has been thought out. The sleeve cuffs show particular care in their design, and they are contoured at the edge to taper as they close with a minimum of overlap or fabric bunching. They, like the rest of the styling details, show that a sleek, tactically-minded fit was a high priority when this garment was on the drawing board.
For the record, I am 6'2" 175# with a 32" waist, and I wear a 42 Long coat. A Large Long Crye Combat shirt is a perfect fit.
How does the Combat Shirt hold up in the field? So far, flawlessly, afte a couple of hard days of woodsball, it still looks brand new. The body has remained surprisingly snag-free (unlike my Under Armour shirts), and the tough twill sleeves are completely unblemished. As expected, the genuine Crye fabric exhibits no fading or streaking and virtually no shrinkage, while its soft finish continues to soften with wear and laundry cycles. What little paint it encountered washed out with not so much as a shadow remaining. Of course, with an expensive dual-fabric garment like this, proper laundry care is essential. I wash it inside out (with the Velcro carefully closed) on cold wash/cold rinse using gentle detergent with a long pre-rinse cycle and an extra rinse to get all the paint and dirt out of it, and I lay it flay to dry. (No tumble drying! Anything with this much Spandex will age quickly if you use heat to dry it...)
Here's the bottom line. Nobody needs a $115 paintball shirt. Nobody. Period. The Crye Combat Shirt should be a luxury item for any individual not literally fighting for his life in a combat zone.
That said, it makes a really great paintball shirt.
This post has been edited by Lil' C: 06 August 2007 - 04:16 PM