Failed Review: PBT 800n Fencing Pants

If you read my review of the 350n PBT knickers, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the company. Fencing is a part of their DNA, and it shows in their product quality.

Recently PBT has launched a flurry of new products - it’s clear they’ve invested a lot in making new products unique to HEMA, everything from beefier jackets, masks, and even bags.
Being that I already enjoyed the 350n pants, I thought buying the 800n pants with integrated knees was a no brainer. Better pants! No more external knees! I’ll be a better fencer!


(I won’t be a better fencer)


What’s a Failed Review?

Typically here at MAW, we want gear to go through some extensive use before it’s reviewed - preferably at least one tournament, or at least some significant sparring. We need better expectations in our community in regards to the durability of the products we purchase, which is the reason for this rule.


However, occasionally products will be deemed unsafe to review in a comprehensive fashion.
It’s important to understand that an unsafe product is not one that broke - that’s a production quality issue. An unsafe product is one where the very design of the product makes it not safe to fence in. Testing it further is unnecessary at that point.


The 800n pants fall into this category.


Review Experience / Methodology

PBT was unaware at the time of purchase that I would be considering the pants. I paid full price, through their traditional web channel.


The product was worn only during one class and was never sparred in. I have not worn them since, and I will not to sell them to anyone else, due to safety concerns


Construction & Materials

The pants still meet PBT’s high tailoring standards - stitches are rock solid, and the cut is still fairly good, although significantly baggier than the 350n pants.

The 800n material (left) is significantly coarser than the 350n material (right), and it's a little scratchy because of it. My cat's hair (far left) is the softest thing in the picture.

The 800n material (left) is significantly coarser than the 350n material (right), and it's a little scratchy because of it. My cat's hair (far left) is the softest thing in the picture.


I suspect the reason is this - the 800n material they chose has NONE of the stretch of the 350n pants, and in order to maintain mobility these pants had to be made larger. They don’t fit close to the body.

The waist latching system is a huge improvement - less velcro! Instead, there's an elastric strap with two sets of snaps  you can attach to. So if you're like me where you might put on a few pounds in the winter, these pants give you some flexibility. I really hope PBT continues this design choice into their other pants.

Here's your "oh-god-I-ate-too-much" options on your pants.

Here's your "oh-god-I-ate-too-much" options on your pants.

The extra security means you're pants won't keep opening up on you when you have to sit down.

The extra security means you're pants won't keep opening up on you when you have to sit down.

The bottom of the pants also contain snaps, which I assume are intended for shin guards that PBT has yet to release.  MANUFACTURER'S - we're getting close to that time where a universal mounting system is going to be needed. Nearly every industry has do this eventually, and propriety mounting systems don't benefit anyone.


The knees are directly integrated into the pants, and sewn in. This means they can’t be removed, even during washing. The same goes for the thigh pads - I thought I’d be able to remove them if I didn’t like them, but they too were sewn into the pants as well.


The knees pads themselves are only slightly heavier than the ever popular Knee pros. However, since they’re they’re fitted / strapped to the body, they weigh the pants down.

It’s almost as if you attached lead weights to the bottom of the pants. The overall weight that you fight at might not change, but the feeling is weird, having your pants constantly tugged down. Normally you’d pay $50 for that service (HA! get it?).


Sewn in augmentation is frustrating as fuck.


Many vendors are moving in the direction of modularity - building a system that allows fencers to add / take away protection and features as they so choose. This is very much the direction that I think products need to go.


However, both PBT and SPES (with their hussar jacket) have opted for fully integrated, robust protection. They are making bomb-proof jacket and pants.


When you sew in augmentation, I can no longer have the product tailored without a significant cost. and if I might feel there’s too much protection, I can’t remove it. To make it worse, there’s an even better chance that every fencer isn’t built the same, and said augmentation can hurt your fencing.


Performance - Why the product failed

Aside from the fact that I didn’t enjoy the thigh padding (it bunched up in weird ways), the knees were what made the product unsafe.

It's not obvious in the photo due the pants being baggier, but that's my kneecap that I'm touching. I did not move the pant, I only bent my knees.

It's not obvious in the photo due the pants being baggier, but that's my kneecap that I'm touching. I did not move the pant, I only bent my knees.


The legs on the 800n pants are a good 3–5 inches longer than the 350n pants, which means they don’t sit on the knee as well. I personally had to keep hiking them up just to keep them on the same level as my knee.


There is no stretch material to keep the knee snug to the knee. This is a critical failure, since the knee protection tends to move about while you’re actually fencing.


This is one of the biggest problems with integrated protection - it has no means by which to stabilize and stay snug to the body part it’s trying to protect.


In fact, after taking a couple of low stances, I noticed quickly that the knee protector had shifted to the side of my knee, completely exposing the knee cap. Standing straight up did not cause it to return to the safe position.


I shouldn’t have to readjust my knickers mid fight to keep myself safe.


Customer Service

PBT has, as always, been a pleasure to work with. I ordered the knickers, and within a week or so I had them. Shipping once again was reasonable.

(update: to reinforce this point, I placed an order for a jacket last thursday, and I'm receiving the jacket the following wednesday).


Conclusion

I did not write to PBT prior to writing this review, as I did not want the influence to affect how I wrote, or even if I published it at all. I’m a big softy lugnut, afterall.


I still very much trust them as a company, and their heart is in the right place. I will still be purchasing a backzip jacket from them to review. This is not a company issue, nor a trend, but a product design one problem.


I’m sure they’ll fix this issue in the future, but it was more important to me for people to know my experience with the pants and understand the risks - PBT isn’t going to fix this issue overnight, afterall.


I am willing to both post a rebuttal from PBT (as we allow any vendor to do with our reviews), or an additional review from someone who found them to be a favorable pair of knickers.
At the end of the day, we at MAW are just people, and we’re not always right.