Dead Bird, Gendarmes, and The Spirit of Rescue

February 16, 2017  
Categories: Gear Curious

Arc’teryx gear of any line is expensive. Damned expensive — and there’s a reason for that. Not only do they use the best materials they can source (often developed in-house), they design everything with input from professionals whose lives literally hinge upon the quality of their gear. This is why they do so much work with CANSOFCOM, and units like France’s Specialistes Montagne of the Groupe Montagne Gendarmerie. They are some of the finest high-altitude rescue personnel in the world, and as you can imagine the nature of their job requires a lot of specialized equipment and some great big brass balls.

I’m not sure how these guys walk with those things banging around their ankles. You’d have a hard time convincing me to let you drop me by a cable head first into a crevasse so tight you had to grease me up first to get in. Under a helicopter. In a blizzard.

But that’s what these guys do. French gendarmes, like Italy’s Carbinieri, Spain’s Guardia Civil, and Jordan’s Darak, are an LE element of their military. They’re a nationalized police force, operating throughout France’s mountain ranges, from the Pyrenees to the Alps. The Specialistes Montagne are to mountain operations what GIGN (Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) is to counter-terrorism ops, though there are far, far, fewer of the Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne.

They are passionate about what they do, as you can hear for yourself as one of the captains of what was then CNISAG (Le Centre National d’Instruction Ski et Alpinisme de la Gendarmerie) describes what he refers to as the spirit of rescue.

Melodramatic as it sounds, Arc’teryx seems to share that ethos. They’re a design house, a manufacturer, and a business, but everything they do is task driven. Those tasks (often rescue, occasionally killing terrorists in bitter places) are very specific. As one member of the Arc’teryx team put it,

“We build gear so the user can focus on the task at hand…so you do not have to worry about circumstances getting in your way. You won’t have to worry about your gear, which establishes a level of confidence in the user so he can push further, climb higher, maintain vigilance, be safer. It’s one less thing you have to worry about.”

beau secours (beautiful rescue) requires guts, technical proficiency, supreme levels of physical fitness, self-reliance, better-than-competent autonomy, and the best equipment that can be had. These guys use Dead Bird, which should be testament enough.

There are two primary reasons people wear Arc’teryx. First is for fashion. It’s cool to wear Dead Bird, especially in certain circles, even if you rarely get above 5,000 ft. (that’s Black Mesa, by the way, the highest point in Oklahoma). The second is for legitimate use. This primarily applies to their inclement weather and LEAF gear (like the Atom, which is fucking awesome) but also to their everyday clothing line. I have beaten the shit out of my Bastion pants, for instance. They’ve outlasted every other of jeans or “tactical pants” I’ve tried.

Arc'teryx LEAF pants

Does Dead Bird cost a lot more than other stuff you could get? Of course. In fact, chances are, if you’re not sure you need it, you probably don’t. If you have it, however, and occasion should demand you have it — you’ll be glad you do. It’s that good.

We’ve partnered up with US Elite Gear for their Presidents Day sale. As you’ve likely figured out if you were actually able to read this far, all the US Elite Gear Arc’teryx is up to 50% off. We’re unabashedly promoting that sale, because it’s a great way for some of you who’d never otherwise be able to justify the cost to try some of their gear for yourselves. It’s also a nice opportunity to make a little money — we get a small commission on any sales generated by our referral.


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Reeder Profile Picture 5About the Author

It might not be too surprising that David Reeder, who never met a $50 word he didn’t like, one of the “leaders” of the pedagogic and frequently obstreperous Breach Bang Clear team — insomuch as they have a leader (the terms orchestra conductor and rodeo clown are equally apropos). A former POG who tastes like chicken, Reeder cannot play the harmonica. He founded Breach-Bang-Clear quite accidentally at his young son’s behest several years ago. He is the Mad Duo’s Chief Wretched Flunky and Breach-Bang-Clear’s HMFIC. A LEO for many years and former AF Security Forces SNCO, he was an O/C at the National Homeland Security Training Center for many years and a longtime MOUT instructor at the Bold Lighting UWS. Reeder has appeared on Fox News Business and written for a number of publications, from US News & World Report and to RECOIL Magazine and Soldier Systems Daily. All of that sounds way cooler than it actually is. You can read more about him here. Follow his banality on Instagram, @davidreederwrites.

“I have no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left for me” Hunter S. Thompson

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“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Benjamin Franklin

Author David Reader in a stars and stipes suit

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David Reeder

About the Author


  1. strych9

    I didn’t realize I was full on gay for Dead Bird until I saw that terminology on those site.

    That said their stuff cannot be beat IMHO. Just today I was, like a dumbass, wandering around in a snow storm with pretty decent winds in one of their Proton jackets and was perfectly comfortable. It weighs less than a North Face, Marmot or anything else I know of, it’s twice as warm and infinitely more packable.

    Once you go Dead Bird you don’t go back. My only regret is introducing my wife to the brand.

  2. Thorn

    Dead bird may be expensive but it’s a lot more user friendly than stuffing live ones in your pants.

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