View Full Version : OTTE Soft Shell Review

2 January 2009, 12:01
OTTE Soft Shell Review

I'll start by asking what makes a review credible in your eyes, is it one that with lots of tech info about an item? If so, this review quite possibly will be a disappointment. This review is based on a year with Otte Soft Shells, and wearing them for just about everything most people on this site would consider wearing a jacket for. Its not a technical overview, its about beating and grinding on gear to see what its like to live with it.

I'll go into more detail later, but the Otte Soft Shells were worn for concealing weapons on and off duty, for going to meetings with prosecutors and city counselmen, for low crawling (but more high crawling thankfully), shooting pistol, shooting rifle, for team call outs, for going out onto a Glacier (Carbon Glacier), and kicking in doors wearing heavy armor. In short, I've lived in Otte Soft Shells for the past year, and feel pretty comfortable (no pun intended) talking about them.

Lets start out by getting the tech info out of the way. Acknowledging my own faults here, I've always been less interested in the technical aspects of things than their functionality. In most reviews that I read, my eyes start to glaze over when I get to certain info, and I'm taking this point to state that this information is copied off the Otte website and catalog.

• Lightweight, highly breathable Tweave Durastretch fabric wicks away moisture, dries quickly and offers light insulation

• Provides wind, water and abrasion-resistance

• Packs down and takes little room in a rucksack

• Climbing inspired cut fits under body armor and won't get hung-up on pack straps

• Schoeller NanoSphere protective finish keeps the jacket water resistant and repels stains.

• X-Static yarn eliminates static charges, keeps you cool in warm environments, warm in cool environments and eliminates odor

• High-mobility hood moves with your head, can accommodate a helmet or stow in a stand-up collar

• Zippered cargo pockets on sleeves with Velcro to attach patches

• Cuffs have adjustable tabs

• Two large chest pockets placed for easy access and can be used to vent the jacket.

• Sizes: small – 2Xlarge

• Weight 31oz (878 grams) in size large

From my point of view, quite possibly the largest move forward is with the use of X-Static. While initially skeptical, I've found it really does seem to live up to its claims.

A powerful Antimicrobial and Odor Elimination System

* Static Dissipative/Super Conductivity
Our X-Static® pure silver, multi-filament profile provides instantaneous static reduction which not only protects the individual, but mission critical electrical equipment as well. In addition, our conductive fiber can actually tranfer data across the fabric matrix making the system not only extremely protective but overwhelmingly intelligent.

* Anti-Bacterial/Anti-Microbial
X-Static® infused material eradicates bacteria and acts as a bandage. A technology so advanced, it is already used by Johnson and Johnson, NASA, The European Space Agency and over 1,000,000 troops worldwide. It is the most significant advancement in universal protection today and it will protect against the antibiotic resistant bacteria of tomorrow.

* Odor Signature Elimination
An X-Static® system offers immediate, continuous and permanent scent protection by complete neutralization of organic odor agents such as ammonia and urea. This performance benefit significantly protects special operations personnel during sensative missions and enhances the health, welfare and morale of field personnel.

* Moisture Wicking System
Our Patented X-Static® hyrophobic fiber system wicks water and sweat molecules away from the body providing the fabric an extreme level of barrier protection. This intelligent wicking system reduces skin irritations and simultaneously treats open wounds just as a bandage would. Plus the rapid drying allows for improved mobility and comfort.

* Thermodynamic-Warm Weather
The X-Static® system keeps you cooler in the warm weather by distributing thermal energy throughout the garment for immediate dissipation. Because silver is conductive and reflective by nature, our system accelerates the removal of thermal energy away from the body's surface. It interacts with your body chemistry to keep your core at optimum temperature.

* Thermodynamic-Cold Weather
The X-Static® system also keeps you warmer in cool weather. By reflecting your thermal energy back to the body, our system allows wearer to capitalize on thermal energy or "Hot Zones". Because silver is conductive and reflective by nature, this advanced system allows for thermal storage and continuous release during cold weather missions.

Two things that have shown themselves to stand out are wind and water resistance. Nanosphere is a waterproofing agent that bonds to the fibers of material. It is designed to hold for more than 100 wash cycles, which for an outer garment is a lifetime (and then some). I've spilled coffee on my soft shell while driving, and not known about it until I got out of the vehicle. Even after sitting and soaking, my half dried sugar laced caffeine concoction wiped right off. Likewise, rain has had no effect, and the only way I've gotten wet is water down the back of my neck when I don't throw the hood up.


2 January 2009, 12:47
Starting with fit, I think this was my only area of concern, in talking with the Otte Gear crew, I think I understand why, and the issue was me. I'll back up a bit here and start from the beginning. The Otte Soft Shell I received was in size large. This was based off my height and weight, and should have been the correct size. When I got it, the sleeve length was perfect, and the Soft Shell fit like it was custom made for me. You would think that with a glowing first impression like that, there would be no room for complaint. You would be right if you didn't carry a gun every single place you went every day of your life. The length at the waist was a little too short to conceal my duty and off duty pistol. It covered the muzzle, but just barely, which meant that any real movement would expose the muzzle, and that was a no go.

I'll admit that I was a bit confused at how the Soft Shell could be so perfect in every aspect, with the exception of this one little thing. Todd from Otte Gear explained that the Soft Shell was meant for use with guys wearing hard armor. I had to think about this, and while it made sense, it still nagged at me a bit. I exchanged the size L for the XL (no problems at all, they were great), and life immediately became better with the XL. I understand that the length of the size Large wouldn't be an issue if I carried my pistol in the waist (IWB) of my pants, but I don't unless its deep concealment, and then its usually a smaller weapon anyway.

You would think that me talking about the length of the Soft Shell would be beaten to death by now, with most readers saying to get over it and just buy the XL, and that I should have known better since every cop has to buy clothes based around their lifestyle (carrying a pistol everywhere). I would agree with this assessment, but the plot thickens. A great guy, who I still owe a large favor to, sent me a Black Soft Shell in size large. My first thought was that I needed to send it back for a XL, but I had a raid coming up in a few days, and in typical Pacific North West weather, it was supposed to be wet and cold.

I'll digress for a minute and state that on raids, I like to be well prepared. I've seen things go bad in both the Military, and in law Enforcement, and its not enjoyable. I'm also not a fan of trying out new items in real world operations. I pulled my gear out of my issue vehicle, and put on my size Large Otte Soft Shell, then piled on all my equipment, including the hard armor. Son of a..... the Soft Shell was perfect in size large, Todd had been right the entire time. I pulled off the Soft Shell in large, and threw on my XL, then dropped all my gear back on again. Todd was right, while the size XL certainly worked, the size large was tailored for heavy gear with my body size.

With heavy armor and full load out, one of the problems that has plagued troops has been general discomfort, which is often lessened by increased wear and exposure through real world use. However, this discomfort often comes with pressure and abrasion against the neck, which becomes more than simply a matter of "suck it up". My own setup lives with a heavy level 4 plate in front, and IIIA armor everywhere else. The neck extends up, and overall isn't bad, but it still is what it is. With the Otte Soft Shell on, it was like wearing a cushion around me, which made no sense as the Soft Shell isn't bulky by any means. With the large Soft Shell, there was no bunching of material, or pressure points under the armor at all, and this is the first time in wearing heavy armor that I can say that. This is one of those rare examples in which the sum equals more than the parts.

I'll be the first to admit that wearing gear standing in your living room hardly has the same effect as real world operational use. I wore the black size Large Soft Shell for the next couple days as we prepped for the raid. It fit great, and weapon concealment wasn't an issue as it was all duty work. I found that the large shoulder pockets worked well, and kept things dry even in heavy down pours. The large velcro sections work to keep my US Flag on the pocket, while still being able to hold large velcro POLICE id under the flag. The velcro US Flag and POLICE ID patches were obtained from Andy at Tactical Tailor, and have become permanent fixtures on my Otte Soft Shells.

Enter the day of the raid. While at HQ I was stopped by several admin, including 2 Chiefs who wanted to know if I liked the jacket. They then asked how long we had been issuing them, and of course we weren't. This seemed to bring about a wistful look, and a reply of "So I can't get one from the quartermaster" ? Every once in awhile I am capable of responding in a PC manner to those who vastly outrank me, and my reply in this case was both courteous and honest saying, "No, but we should look at getting them". At the final brief, we got word that the place had been very active, and that teams had been out all night watching the place. The typical last minute comments of "watch your a**" and "stay safe" were made by those who would be sitting behind and listening on the radio. My ever favorite comment was made saying "let me know if you need anything", which is cover for anyone who doesn't want to get involved, but wants to make sure they can't get blamed for failing to do anything. Note, this of course are my own cynical personal thoughts, but as my father always commented, "never trust anyone who has less to lose than you do". That saying comes based on a lot of work within a small community of guys who will never be talked about, and from better men than me.

While on approach scouts advised that there was a large group of bikers that had been back and forth to the residence, and that we needed to set up for possible hostile return. Nice timing to bring up something "little" like that. Over all it ended as well as it could, the breacher couldn't breach, it was cold and wet, and yours truly ended up as an "aggressive deterrent" outside to watch out for any returning unfriendlies in a gang infested neighborhood. FUBAR and BOHICA are words often used, and for good reason, but overall things went well enough. Whats all this have to do with the Soft Shell? Simple, I stayed dry, warm, and comfortable even though I was outside almost the entire time.

I need to find a picture of heavy armor with a Soft Shell that isn't going to violate policy or opsec, until then, here is a picture of one of the other guys wearing a MultiCam Soft Shell while shooting.


2 January 2009, 13:59
Moving past the above touching story, we get into the Otte Soft Shells, and some basic info. The Soft Shells are available currently in the following colors,

Alpha Green- I have no pictures of this, but from the website, it looks to be a green mixed with brown.

Black-- This is standard black, and shown below with a Tactical Tailor Mini-MAV, as well as my US Flag and POLICE patches. http://www.ottegear.com/catalog-detail.php?p=8


Foliage- This color should be recognizable as its a match for the standard US Army Foliage Green color. http://www.ottegear.com/catalog-detail.php?p=9


Lt. Coyote- In talking with Otte Gear, this color was developed for Navy and Marine units, and is a match for colors found in their desert uniforms. http://www.ottegear.com/catalog-detail.php?p=1

MultiCam- This is the color made famous by Caleb Crye, who is a nice guy, or has been the few times I've met him. Good eye for patterns, and rumor has it that the military is more than a little interested in a MC development or offshoot/ variation of this theme. MultiCam is already in use select US Military and paramilitary groups and teams. Its popular in other circles as well, and I'm always amazed at the amount of people who have still never seen this pattern. These pictures show the hood open, and offer a view from the front and back. These images also appear a little brighter to me than they do in real life. Variations on your computer monitor may alter the color as well.http://www.ottegear.com/catalog-detail.php?p=7



Sand This picture shows my US Flag, and concealable POLICE ID patches. NOTE- The coloring looks a little brighter in this picture than it is to my eye in real life, I'm not sure if this is because of the white background, or its simply because I'm not very good with Photoshop.


2 January 2009, 14:31
I've spent quite a bit of time wearing the Soft Shell doing drills and shooting on the range. With an outer garment that was designed for Military use, and Special Operation needs, the Soft Shell needs to be tight enough that loose material isn't getting caught up, but loose enough that free and full movement can be done. Reaching up over your head, bending your elbows, and touching your toes may be a nice way to check sleeve length in a store, but that isn't going to replicate what its like to run a gun in real life. I've got an older alpine shell that I like, but its not very impressive trying to move and shoot with it as it hangs up and restricts mobility.

The Otte Soft Shell has flex or stretch in the material, and this allows for complete free movement. The sleeves are stitched further back onto the back of the torso, which no doubt assists in this.

The sleeves have an elastic, as well as a good length of velcro to ensure your wrists are covered the way you like them. In roughly a year of wearing the Soft Shell, the velcro has showed no signs of wearing out. I've caught the wrist area while reaching into engine bays, and the seams haven't pulled apart or popped any stitching.

The below picture shows the sleeves, and where they meet with the body of the garment. If you follow the lines of the Gear Sector ASP sling, you will see the seam line.


Next we see an image showing reloads, bent arms are no problem, and the sleeves don't try to ride up over the gloves.


Shown below, full extension isosceles stance, punched all the way out, elbows rolled in, and no sleeves coming back or getting short.


2 January 2009, 15:31
What else can you do with a Soft Shell? From a shooting and tactics view point, its a solid coat, but its done a lot more than going shooting with me and kicking in doors.

The Otte Soft Shell is a good enough looking jacket where I am stopped by compete strangers to ask about it. My most surprised event was being stopped by a General in church and being asked where I "got such a nice coat". Aside from being questioned by friends and Generals, I've worn the Soft Shell into legal meetings, and been told before anything official started, "thats a nice jacket, where can I get one"? I've run into City Counsel members I've been asked the same question. Given my dislike for certain positions, its been a nice surprise to talk about something other than official things.

This year my Soft Shell took trips out into the Rain Forrest, where without much shock, it rained, and rained hard. There were no leaks in the Soft Shell, even though it felt like I was getting hit by buckets of water.

I also took a trip to one of the Glaciers, and found out that the Soft Shell isn't magic, and that I needed a few more layers of clothing. While I was moving, it wasn't bad, but staying in one place took on a new meaning of cold after a few minutes. Strong howling winds didn't penetrate the Soft Shell, which was very nice, and neither did the snow which was hitting hard enough to hurt exposed skin. The Otte Soft Shell wasn't designed to be a Glacier hiking single piece jacket, and only an idiot would take it to be one. I'll avoid the idiot title by having layered up, but I still should have thrown on a little more, or gone over the top of the Soft Shell.

I should point out that in lighter snow, and in areas like the below ravine, I've had no problems wearing the Soft Shell, with temperature and comfort levels have stayed high.


2 January 2009, 16:37
I'll wrap this portion of the review up for now. The end question with most reviewed items becomes whether I would want a friend, family, or squad member to own the item, and whether I would want them to spend the money.

The answer to the above is yes. The cost of the Otte Soft Shell isn't cheap, but the quality of the item is off the charts. I would recommend this to anyone, and for those in LE and MIL, check with them about special pricing.


2 January 2009, 16:42
Resources mentioned in the thread:

www.ottegear.com (http://www.ottegear.com)

Otte Gear LLC
332 Bleecker Street, #E10
New York, NY 10014

646-233-4014 / voice
773-439-5237 / fax

Tactical Tailor

www.tacticaltailor.com (http://www.tacticaltailor.com/)

Tactical Tailor
2916 107th Street South
Lakewood, WA 98499

(253) 984-7854

(253) 984-6696

Tactical Tailor
12715 Pacific Highway South
Lakewood, WA 98499

(253) 584-5500

(253) 584-5501

5 February 2009, 07:21

For the concealment/ foldout POLICE patches, and US FLAG patches, contact Tactical Tailor and ask for Andy or Alicia. The patches are being made available now, and will be a standard item down the road.

*** Please note Andy longer works at the store, but Alicia is still there and able to help you, as are any of the other people down there. ***

For my brothers (and sisters) in the FBI, DEA, State Police, City, County, or local LEO, and everyone else who goes into harms way, Andy is someone who I trust to deal with, and between him and Alicia, they took an idea and developed it into a very functional item. For that, I am grateful.

I recently spoke with Andy, and they are making the patches with various markings, as well as in different colors. This means you don't have to be the "POLICE" (even though you know you want to), you can be marked with your own agency or unit markings.

Store number- (253) 584-5500