Mirage Camo: up-close and in-the-field
There are 2 generations of the Mirage Camo combat uniform from Bulldog Equipment. This article focusses on the Gen. I uniform. Further details of the Gen.II, vented, uniform can be found here.
The Combat Jacket is made from a lightweight nylon-cotton rip-stop material, and is similar in basic design to the ACU (Army Combat Uniform) and RAID-modified BDU jackets. However, the Mirage jacket has additional features that makes it more optimised for combat operations.
Starting from the top, the first additional feature of the Mirage jacket is the padded and reinforced shoulder area. This area extends from just above the name tag on the front and goes across the width of the upper back. The entire area is covered with “SuperFabric” material that features small rubber nibs that provide a non-slip surface. The padding is provided by removable light-weight breathable open cell foam. The benefit of this padding is that it cushions and comforts the shoulders against weapon slings and heavy rucksack and equipment straps.
The next improved feature is that the chest pockets open on the outside edge. This allows much easier access to the pockets while wearing a chest rig or assault vest – chest pockets that open from the top or the inside edge are much more difficult to access when wearing a vest or load-bearing equipment. The pockets also use a simple hook-and-loop closure method rather than a fold-over flap as on the ACU.
Another feature not seen on previous US-issue combat jackets is an inside forearm pocket. This pocket provides easy and immediate access to documents, notebooks and other small objects with minimal amount of movement. This is ideal for snipers or recon elements who need to keep notes or charts within easy reach and without giving away their position through too much movement. This pocket is also ideal for other important documents or photos that need to be accessed quickly and easily whilst active.
The Mirage Combat Jacket are features padded and reinforced elbows, in a way similar to the shoulders. The reinforcement is made of the same “SuperFabric” material with rubbery grips; however, the foam used for the pad is a lighter weight material compared to the shoulders. The placement and size of the elbow pads are also much better designed and placed than the ACU elbow pads.
The final unique feature of the Mirage Combat Jacket is the diagonal crotch strap. Now at first sight this might seem a bit odd, but it is actually a very simple and effective solution to a real problem. Anyone who’s used BDU or ACU type jackets knows that the hem has a tendency to ride up and get bunched up under the waist/hip belt of your load-carrying rig. By running a narrow adjustable webbing strap diagonally from the left rear to right front hem, Bulldog has eliminated this problem. Not only does this make the jacket more comfortable in use, it also helps keep your kidney and waist area covered, concealed and protected against the ingress of insects, grit or debris.
By combining the good features of RAID/ACU jackets with these unique additional features, Bulldog has come up with one of the best all-round, light, field/combat jackets I’ve had the privilege of using. When you add the unique and highly-effective digital camouflage pattern to the mix as well, then you’ve really got something special.
The Combat Trousers are another innovative element of the Mirage combat uniform system. They have some features not seen before, combined with improvements on other features previously proven to be useful.
The first improvement is the addition of an internal mobile phone pocket sewn into the front inside of the left-hand, front slash pocket. This allows for easy access and out-of-the-way storage of a mobile phone or small 2-way radio.
Another improvement is the addition of SuperFabric material to the bottom edge of the slash pockets, this provides a non-slip surface for the clip of a folding knife.
The pocket on the front of the upper-thigh is ideal for carrying a notebook, documents, small items of equipment or 2 standard 30-rd magazines.
The main cargo pockets are one of my favourite features of the trousers. They are placed at an angle in order to facilitate easy access from all tactical positions (kneeling, standing, prone). Being placed at an angle also makes the pockets more comfortable when they are loaded – as they “ride” better on the leg. The internally-facing bellows pleat set-up used on the cargo pockets also makes them more practical, useful and less likely to snag on passing undergrowth or equipment. Finally, the top of the pocket has an elastic bungee that runs through it – this helps to stabilise and secure items that are placed in the pocket (even if the flap is left unfastened). I found the Mirage approach to be handier than the methods used on both the ACU and the MCCUU – and the Mirage cargo pockets also work quite well as emergency dump pouches because of the way they’ve been designed.
The removable kneepads are also an improvement over the ACU. The knee areas are reinforced the same tough SuperFabric material used on the elbows and shoulders, and the rubbery grips on the material provide a more secure “footprint” when taking a knee in urban/built-up environments. The size and placement of the knee pads are also superior to those found on either the ACU or MCCUU.
An interesting new feature is the integrated PALS/MOLLE panel on the rear of the trousers. This feature allows for easy attachment of small pouches and sub-loads.
Another area where a traditional feature has been improved upon is the reinforced seat. This area of the trousers is more reinforced than other combat trousers (such as BDU, DCU, ACU, MCCUU). The area is tripled layered and the overall surface area also larger than other trousers.
The trousers also feature the lower calf pockets that have become common with other modern RAID and ACU style combat trousers. However, the calf pockets on the Mirage trousers though are slightly roomier and more practical.
Finally, a band of SuperFabric reinforces the hems of the trousers – which feature a nylon cord drawstring as well. This is another great innovation as it protects the bottom of the trouser legs when worn unbloused over the boots (as is common practice among SOF units). It also actually helps the trouser hems fit over and stay in position on the boots better as well. So, this is another of my favourite things about these trousers.
Overall, the uniform fits and feels great. It is loose enough to be very comfortable and not restrict movement, while also not being unnecessarily baggy. It is by far one of the most well designed and best-made combat uniforms that I’ve ever used.
On the minus side though, the SuperFabric material – whilst as tough as nails – doesn’t breathe well, so heat build-up in the areas where it is used does become an issue during periods of exertion or warm weather. For this reason, the use of SuperFabric has been discontinued and ventilated areas have been added on the latest version of the uniform.
Also, I think the amount of Velcro on the upper sleeve pockets is excessive (but this is the US Army standard). I’d also prefer the use of Velcro to fasten the sleeve pockets rather than buttons, and the grab-tabs on the lower sleeve and chest pockets could also be bigger. Both of these features easy to modify at the user level though, so aren’t huge issues.
Finally, Bulldog will customise the pocket layout and other features of the uniform for your authorised US military unit, or you can simply choose the standard “Breacher” or “Sniper” versions. Either way, you’ll get a uniform which is a great improvement over the BDU or ACU, combined with a very effective multi-terrain camouflage scheme – and less expensive than some other options.
Authorised military and law enforcement personnel can visit Bulldog’s website for further details: www.bulldog-equipment.us
Photo Gallery – in use in UK woodland, early September 2009:
All photos copyright Benj Hanson and Strike-Hold!, please don’t use without permission.