Life begins with serving - Brandon Lowe

Even though I lived an entire twenty-two-year life before the military, I don’t believe my life truly began until I served.  Any veteran or active duty military personnel will tell you that you’re going to get your ass handed to you in whatever route you go. Of course, certain avenues are more difficult than others, but the complete 180 of life in the military versus the civilian world is a hard pill to swallow.  Though, those who take that pill in stride rarely come to regret it.  The experience I wanted out of the military was to be challenged beyond what I could even possibly imagine, and trying out for the 75th Ranger Regiment was my perfect opportunity.  The 75th Ranger Regiment has a storied past of being one of the elite units in the United States mIlitary, and it carries on that tradition today.  It is an elite special operations unit under the umbrella of the Special Operations Command and is considered the Army’s premier direct action raid force.  It is a highly selective unit. Those who wish to become Rangers must attend an 8-week physically, mentally, and emotionally arduous selection process known as Ranger Assessment Selection Process(RASP).  If selected, you can still be kicked back into the conventional Army for any reason that would jeopardize the unit’s reputation or mission, the only US special operations unit to do so.  Long story short, I was selected and was sent to the 1st Battalion under the 75th Ranger Regiment in Savannah, Georgia.  I honed my skills as a Ranger and was sent on various combat deployments to different Middle-Eastern countries such as Syria and Afghanistan throughout my 5-year contract commitment.  I even had the honor to compete for the 75th Ranger Regiment in what is considered the toughest military competition in the world, The 2019 Best Ranger Competition.  A competition where the only military personnel allowed to compete is Ranger School graduates, a challenging leadership school not affiliated with the 75th Ranger Regiment.  Hereafter, The Best Ranger Competition would signify the end of my military career but not my life’s journey.

I knew I wanted to finish my loose goal of finishing college eventually, but I was unsure where to begin.  About a year or so before I was discharged from active duty, a good Ranger Buddy of mine was boasting about how he was attending Columbia University, an Ivy League school located in New York City.  He was confident I would get in if I applied, even though I disclosed to him that my grades from my former college experience were below subpar.  However, then I thought I had been successful in one of the most physically demanding roles in existence, so why couldn’t I be just as successful in one of the most mentally demanding higher education institutions in existence as well.  His reassurance that my time in special operations and unique life experience would be enough motivated me to go ahead and apply.  I am proud to say that this December of 2021, I will be a graduate of Columbia University and have another one of my lofty goals checked off.  

An interesting and amazing aspect of Columbia University is the number of veterans that attend.  We have a solid military community on campus, and I have made many close friends because of our uniquely shared experiences.  One such friend, the current president of our student-led MIlitary Veteran organization, Anothony, introduced me to David Wood of Virtus Outdoor Group.  In multiple conversations, I had heard Anthony discuss David and his company Vitrus Outdoor Group.  What intrigued me the most about VOG was the CEO’s Marine background.  Veterans know their shit when it comes to outdoor gear since the gear we use during our active duty is the difference between survival and death in combat operations.  We know what will hold up and what will buckle under the harsh conditions we put our gear through.   For this reason, I knew VOG was legit.  

Before I was officially introduced to David Wood, I had been training for a 100-mile ultramarathon that was to take place in Moab in the middle of August.  I had been stressing over what gear I should utilize to complete the ultra.  In these ultramarathons, any race over 26.2 miles, anything can happen because of not only the distance but also due to the fact that they take place on mountain trails.  So the clothing and equipment I needed had to be top-notch as far as quality and breathability.  Divulging my dilemma to Anthony, he put me in contact with David.  Two weeks later, I had almost all of VOG’s entire gear lineup.  The VOG gear quickly became my go-to for not only physical training but in my casual attire as well.  Hell, I’m wearing the Solly Jeans in the coffee shop as I’m writing this right now. 

Being an avid trail runner who also makes sure to get my reps in at the gym, finding great workout shorts is an exhausting search.  That being said I’m not really sure how I could find anything that can compete with the VOG diver shorts.  They not only allow plenty of leg moveability with their above knee-length but the lightness of the material is unmatched.  They have stood the wear and tear of the mountain trails while also making a hell of a statement in the gym.  Let’s be real, looks matter as well.  The hidden gem lies in the zipper side pockets.  Great for quick runs, these shorts allow me to safely secure a key to my apartment and cash.  It is in the small details such as this, where VOG truly shines and the military backgrounds of its employees really present themselves.  I have never seen a feature like this on any gym short and it is now a feature that I can do without. 

Another article of VOG gear that I consistently use is the Astreas Jacket.  Just like the Diver shorts, the Astreas jacket is packed full of tiny details that really set it apart from other outdoor jackets.  On any given outdoor adventure, whatever that may consist of, pockets are your bestfriend to hold any tools needed to successfully complete the trek.  The Astreas delivers on this front, tenfold.  Another aspect of the jacket that I find extremely useful are the zipper vents on the armpits.  During an aggressive hike, regardless of the temperature, sweating is inevitable and can be dangerous in low temperatures due to the risk of the body’s sweat overcooling causing hypothermia.  The Astrease zipper vents allow me to circumnavigate this risk by allowing a small amount of airflow in order to cool the body off without, one taking the jacket off and two providing just enough airflow to prevent enough body sweat to lower the body’s temperature to detrimental levels.  Lastly, the form fitting design of the jacket allows an enormous amount of maneuverability that is highly sought after in outdoor equipment.  The jacket allows for a wide range of motion that is a necessity on any outdoor trek and while the Astreas is perfect for the outdoors, it looks damn good in a casual setting as well.  From the mountains to the streets, it gets the job done.  

The most powerful aspect of VOG is that I can give you exact details on why every piece of their gear I use is top-notch compared to other outdoor gear competitors.  It's the tiny details and dual purpose that elevate their gear.  A VOG jacket is not just a jacket.  It is a piece of survival equipment while being great for everyday wear.  VOG pants, such as the Kaos pants, are not just for the outdoor enthusiast but can make a statement at the bar.  These are qualities you can expect from a veteran-owned organization such as VOG, and these are precisely the characteristics that make VOG gear great. While my job title is no longer Ranger, my expectations from the quality of gear I use have remained the same.  This is why I choose veteran-owned companies, and more specifically, this is why I choose VOG.

Rangers Lead the Way,

Brandon Lowe          


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