Fighter Design is an up and coming company bringing some very cool new ideas to the tactical market. Their Airflow pants in particular have the most aggressive hot weather design I've seen to date where you'll have to get into space suit type designs to do much better. No wacky fans, gels, or anything like that, just well placed mesh on an already good set of military style pants. Additionally the pants can utilize another cool product from Fighter Design, their Magnetic Fastener kits. For folks where velcro just doesn't match your needs, the magnetic closures offer a silent and smooth alternative.
What I think is one of the best attributes to the Airflow pants is that the airflow effects are immediately noticeable. They are not just some half ass snake oil where you hope it is helping, it is so noticeable it actually takes some getting used to the cooling effects. For example some thoughts on my early tests while running were: is there a hole in my pants?, am I dripping sweat?, and oh crap am I bleeding? This all stemmed from being cooler in areas I wasn't used to in normal pants rather than any of those actual contemplated issues.
To create this airflow the main driving force is mesh used down the inseam of the pant legs. Not stopping there, the cargo pockets use mesh walls and interiors to offer even more airflow access points. This placement creates awesome airflow while running to finally get air actually into pants and not just a lightweight material that lets heat escape a little easier. While being active it is almost like you are creating your own interior wind which is typically when you need to beat the heat most. The Mesh is a nice heavy duty material being the same that is used on military packs thus nice to not have to view it as a durability weakness. Due to this, the mesh isn't as soft on the skin as the main ripstop material used, however this was obviously considered with mesh location. Rather than getting carried away, the leg mesh doesn't get too wide to feel like you are showing off your legs and not too high up to scratch and display your crotch. The result being a good balance of utilizing mesh while keeping the pants overall looking "normal".
The core pants themselves have all the main military features expected and more. Starting at the waist is an adjustable elastic waistband using velcro to keep things low profile and not creating pressure points. This is always a nice feature while wearing battle belts so you can keep comfort and your pants up without a pant belt. For the fly they went with a metal zipper for a balance of durability and convenience that closes with a metal button. On the earlier multicam pair they had cool Fighter-D logo buttons, however they were a bit overly shiny so now used a more matte and simple button. The side hand pockets are nice and deep sporting extra large openings which is great for access with gear on. There are too many other pants out there with small pocket openings that basically make them sealed once you put gear on. Over on the back are fairly simple and effective butt pockets. No closures and deep enough to easily stash a rifle magazine.
The cargo pockets are a similar size to ACU style, however aren't fully billowed so don't expand quite as much. None the less there is plenty enough room to fit in rifle magazines and get a good flap closure. As a bonus the upper middle has a stash pocket behind the flap. It is a separate pocket rather than accessing directly into the cargo pocket and even made of mesh to keep the airflow concept. These stash pockets aren't particularly big, however will fit my small smart phone or partially fit a rifle magazine that although not fully secured, makes for an easy retrieval grab.
Besides having a mesh bottom and side, the cargo pockets are simple with no extra interior dividers. This makes sense as any more divisions, even as mesh would start to get a bit in the way of airflow. By default velcro closures are used, spaced offering a good balance of single hand opening while still keeping gear secured. Alternatively this is a great place to try the magnetic fastener retro kits. Offered in 1.5" and 2" wide they can convert any velcro closures by simply placing them on top. The fasteners consist of a magnet sonic welded into the appropriate side, hook and loop, creating an overall low profile and durable package. When in use the magnets offer an easier and more quiet opening than velcro, however thus have the down side of not being able to stay closed in stuffed situations where velcro can. Fighter Design is already investigating more powerful and multiple magnets to offer more security options in the future. The retro kits make for great ways to test out the magnet concept, but do add a little bulk so for anyone interested I recommend getting a retro kit to try out and if you totally dig them you can have the cargo pockets built with magnetic closures to begin with.
I started with the multicam pair shown which I loved the general concept, however I missed having frontal thigh pockets and wanted a solid color so I could wear them even more without scarring off the neighborhood. As a result I came back for more purchasing the OD pants and it is a great demonstration of just how customizable the pants can be. It costs a little extra, however was totally worth it. Somewhat on that subject, these are not cheap pants as they are high quality and made to order. The price will be a barrier for some, but nice things cost and the custom capability certainly puts the price tag into perspective.
As for fit the earlier multicam ones were made more specific to me so are tighter, a little snug in the crotch which I don't mind as it helps leg flexibility for me. I believe others are bit more picky in that sensitive area so they loosened it up a dash in their latest batch patterns. On both I am able to adjust to a nice comfortable fit with leg flexibility and that is the main thing I look for. One thing that is missing from a fancy modern combat pant perspective would be some sort of knee pad integration. When it comes to protection and comfort I think the Crye integrated knee pads are king, yet I can see where messing with the knee area was passed as the airflow pants are specifically made to beat the heat. I'm sure Fighter Design is already looking into possible variants including knee protection options in the future, until then there of course is nothing stopping folks putting on traditional knee pads over these pants.
Although the mesh is not used in excess, it still creates some other considerations such as not offering great protection against insects and dust. It won't be a deal breaker for those looking to cool down, yet will conflict with what most people are trying to do when boots are bloused.
If you are looking for more ways to beat the heat, these Airflow Pants are definitely the ones to check out. You will notice the difference right away and I think they make a great balance of look and function; me being able to do grocery runs in Oakland without any pant comments being a good others' perception test. Those mo-fos always have somethn to say... Be sure and check out the Fighter Design website to see other rad tac gear offerings they have going!