As the comedian, Steven Wright once said, “snakes have no arms, that’s why they don’t wear vests”. Fortunately, humans can wear vests. I’ve never really given the vest a fair chance in my vast closet of outerwear. I’ve always thought if it was cold enough for a jacket, why would I neglect my extremities. Truth is, vests do more than you’d think to keep those arms warm. When your core temps drop, blood flow is reduced in the extremities and used to protect vital organs. By keeping your core warm with a vest, blood flow to the extremities remain constant and therefore warm. Outdoor Research knows this and has introduced the Tradecraft Vest as part of their 13 piece Integrated Apparel System (IAS).

Tradecraft Vest
Core temp map

I’ve already covered the Tradecraft Jacket and Pants in previous articles and the Vest makes up the final piece of this insulating system. These three pieces of the puzzle give the user a great deal of flexibility when choosing what to wear for different mission sets. With the Infiltrator Jacket and Pants designed to be the extreme outer layer protecting you from the elements, Tradecraft is designed for warmth. And the Vest is perfect for those activities where you neither want nor need the added bulk of an insulated jacket.

Tradecraft Vest

Tradecraft is an old word that used to refer to the work, or craft, of any profession, or trade. It likely acquired its specific association with spy work during World War II, though it is a word most heavily associated with the Cold War.

The Tradecraft Vest appears pretty simple to the casual observer. But strategically placed Primaloft Gold in the front and rear panels of the vest say otherwise. Targeting the areas of core heat loss while remaining bulk free in other areas. A stretch fleece is utilized along the side panels and under the arms. This is a feature carried through most of the Integrated Apparel System. And a welcome feature for soldiers and active outdoorsmen. This prevents that Michelin Man feeling once suited up for cold weather. Allowing a more nimble and flexible fit.

Tradecraft Vest

Tradecraft Vest specs courtesy of

  • Fabric: PrimaLoft® Gold Polartec Wind Pro® Polygiene®
  • Center Back Length: 29˝ / 76 cm
  • Weight: 13.1oz / 370g (L)
  • Fabric Performance: Water-Resistant Wind-Resistant
  • Design Features: Zip Chest Pocket, Zip Hand Pockets, Internal Front Storm flap, Brushed Tricot-Lined Collar, Hybrid-Mapped Construction 
  • Functional Details: Single-Separating Front Zipper, Elastic Drawcord Hem
  • MSRP: $240

The Tradecraft Series consists of three different pieces (jacket, pants & vest) available in several different colors. Pick and choose your pieces wisely because they are not inexpensive. However, I’ve always lived by the saying “you get what you pay for” and it hasn’t let me down yet. The Tradecraft Vest has been a good option under the Infiltrator Jacket during winter conditions and this spring it has been fine on its own when temperatures are milder. In the video below, Nathan will break down why the Tradecraft Vest should be on your radar.

Images courtesy of the author

Additional items seen in images: OR Tradecraft Pants, Yeti Camino 35, Peltor Tactical 500, Gatorz Sunglasses, Sig P365