Triple Aught Design Factory Tour

Our sister blog recently did a nice review on the Triple Aught Design (TAD) Stealth Hoodie LT (which I also own, and love), and so as a complement I want to give you some insight into the company based on a factory tour I recently took here in San Francisco where TAD is based.

Triple Aught Design is a small company, employing around 30 people, many who I met seemed to really enjoy working there. This is a really important cultural aspect to me since happy employees feeds into building pride behind their products and helps promote innovation.

TAD has two storefronts in San Francisco, their “outpost” location in the Hayes Valley, and then their “base” in the Dogpatch district. When I visited their base location, their Marketing Manager, Skylar, along with Chief Operating Officer Rex & Senior Pack Designer Dan, took me on a tour of their operations.

The storefront is a medium sized warehouse room which is split between merchandise, a big truck, and training classrooms. The Gama Goat truck is essentially a loan from a company friend who needed a place to store it, and TAD was able to offer space for him to display it in the store. Easy peasy.

View of the Dogpatch base store, with the Gama Goat truck as a fun centerpiece.

View of the Dogpatch base store, with the Gama Goat truck as a fun centerpiece.

The American and California flags alongside TAD backpacks welcome visitors at the store entrance.

The American and California flags alongside TAD backpacks welcome visitors at the store entrance.

The classrooms are simple open areas with folding tables and chairs. Many types of classes are offered: survival courses, hand-to-hand combat, edged weapons, and field forecasting amongst many other topics. Naturally, I encouraged them to offer weapons courses using airsoft and/or laser training guns.

We then visited the warehouse and then where they design and assemble concept products. The warehouse is busy most of the week shipping out online orders and processing incoming supplies. Each outbound package gets a personalized touch with a hand-stamped TAD logo on each box.

Each box gets hand-stamped TLC.

Each box gets hand-stamped TLC.

On the design front, what I thought was most interesting is that TAD has every single apparel component on site so they can build prototypes at will. In our discussions, I noticed a very strong “launch and iterate” mentality which reminded me of my days working at Google, where Silicon Valley is all about kicking products out the door quickly to get user feedback and make improvements.

"Made in California" tags which get sewn on all TAD products. These are one of the many components available in-house.

“Made in California” tags which get sewn on all TAD products. These are one of the many components available in-house.

A seamstress works alongside Dan to build prototypes and try out new designs.

A seamstress works alongside Dan to build prototypes and try out new designs.

Old world technology still has a central place in a lot of businesses. TAD uses this seasoned Singer sewing machine on a lot of their designs.

Old world technology still has a central place in a lot of businesses. TAD uses this seasoned Singer sewing machine on a lot of their designs.

One example of taking action on customer feedback was the cord zipper pulls were often coming undone, so they switched to a grosgrain ribbon pull. My host Skylar explained a number of other design improvements that were implemented based on customer feedback such as moving to a three-piece pattern for the hood on their Ranger Hoodie to make it look more stylish and streamlined when up on a user’s head. Another improvement is stitching inner folds more cleanly. The attention to detail is impressive.


Left: Cord zipper pull. Right: Grosgrain ribbon pull.

Black: Newer, stitched version. Green: Older, unstitched version.

Black: Newer, stitched version. Green: Older, unstitched version.

Lastly, TAD delivers high quality products via the way they send their products to factories. I learned that many of their competitors will simply provide a factory with a general layout of where zippers, stitches, and such go, but the factory often has a lot of leeway to cut corners by using cheaper materials and indiscriminately making changes. TAD compensates for this deficiency by giving their factory a 100% completed product with a build template which has explicit instructions for where everything goes, down to single stitches.

I really enjoyed meeting the TAD team and getting an inside look at their operations and company culture. Hopefully you found my insights useful and/or interesting.

Chris Cheng

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion and author of “Shoot to Win,” a book for beginning shooters. A self-taught amateur turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career.

He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. He resides in San Francisco, CA and works in Silicon Valley.


  • USMC03Vet

    “Made in California” tags

    lol, no thanks.

    • billyoblivion

      Do you prefer “Made in China”?

      One of the nice things about TAD (and Ibex, that I know of) is that they tell you where they source the fabric and where the product is assembled (at least country). This gives you information in making your choice.

    • MclarenF1Forever

      That is a dilemma isn’t it? You want to support companies that support the shooting community, but they are in occupied America, so you know that the taxes that gets paid by the company to CA will be used to infringe on the 2A. One can just look at the unconstitutional laws that get proposed, and many pass, out of the CA legislature. The most recent and glaring example is the tightening of the single-shot-exception applicable to non-rostered “not unsafe” handguns.

      • DavyJones

        The thing is that TADs products are amazing, i really dont mind that they are basid in CA. Its not thier fault that CA continues to pass anti 2A laws.

        • HSR47

          Still, it IS their fault that they’re still based in CA…

          • DavyJones

            It isnt the state its tge people lol. Maybe theyll expand or just leave CA eventually.

          • RobGR

            It’s not the people, it’s the CA government. GOP and DNC governors have reamed law abiding gun owners, we have no alternative as they ignore the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The NRA had abandoned us up until recently and, judging from these comments, looks like our fellow gun owners have abandoned us too.

          • RobGR

            So what did you do during the Federal Ban from ’94-’04, leave the US? We have family here, we have friends, we work here, and we still own our firearms however neutered they may be, but we are still Americans and we hold our Rights sacred. If you haven’t noticed, our Federal government has suspended some of our Rights, namely our 4th & 5th A Rights per the Patriot Act and NDAA 2012. So while you criticise & scoff at the rest of us dealing with BS in occupied territory, exactly what will you do Mr Molon Labe when they do it in your State? Take note because it’s happening all over the US, not just CA, not just NYC, but hopefully you do fight it off, like we have tried to. Lots of talk, but let’s see, cause you sure as hell didn’t do anything during the Federal Ban, none of us could, could we.

      • Danmaku

        Buying from triple aught actually is good, because you are supporting pro-gun businesses in the “enemy territory”. CA will get their money one way or another. We need to recognize which of our actions truly makes a difference in our cause and which don’t. Like the flaws of the southerners of the civil war, while their cause was just, their actions were not because success on their part would have weakened the relatively new country before it got secure on its feet.

    • avconsumer2

      Ah well – at least it can be removed so your friends won’t laugh at you. ;D

  • Drapetomanius

    “…and this is where we spray powdered diamonds on all of our products…”

    At least, I assume they do, given their prices. Or maybe they outsource the diamond coating to the same facility that does it for Noveske?

    • Gunhead

      TAD is one of the most established when it comes to Tactical Chic. Read “Zero History” by William Gibson- it’s all about the Military-Industrial-Fashion complex.

    • billyoblivion

      They make stuff in small batches and generally prefer American labor to overseas production.

      If you need cheap stuff, go to Walmart.

  • SaintSin23

    They have some really cool stuff but way way over priced.

    • I just can’t buy cheap anything anymore. I end up buying inexpensive clothing three times for every one quality jacket we’ll say that last years longer.

      • USMC03Vet

        What the hell are you doing where you clothes are falling apart at that rate…

        Wrestling bears in between amphibious assault operations against nazi zombies?

        • Zachary marrs

          Is there a waiting list for that?

    • JumpIf NotZero

      If you know what you’re looking at and know what those things cost, they’re actually quite fair.

      Some of there items vs Arc’teryx are higher quality and lower price. And I love my bird gear.

      Some people are just content to buy things over and over.

      Personally, I’m too poor to be cheap.

    • n0truscotsman

      Compared to what?

      You aren’t going to get high quality, american assembled goods for nothing. A fleece jacket with differing grains of fleece sewn into a jacket with pockets isn’t going to be “cheap”.

  • Nicholas C

    One aspect that was not touched on, is the creative side of TAD GEAR. As the creator/designer and ex-owner, Patrick Ma left TAD GEAR, it shall be interesting to see where TAD GEAR goes without its chief designer.

  • n0truscotsman

    I love TADs stuff, especially their pants. My wife has two jackets (the artemis and shagmaster ((STFU jokers 😉 ) although their stuff is definitely not “grey man”, as in their products are very distinguishable, even in public.

    I also learned that, unlikey pretty much any other clothing item with the exception of other similar types of products like Arcteryx, they retain a fair value on the used market (via EBAY).

  • Ken

    Love my Ranger Hoodie LT as well. The problem with small-batch manufacturing is, well, small batches. It takes a while to get some things since when they hit their website, they go quickly. I’m waiting patiently to hit the buy button on the Ranger Jacket LT.