Helikon-Tex Classic Army Fleece Review
Rugged fleece jacket with windproof membrane
Helikon-Tex have been on the radar of outdoor enthusiasts and professionals, hunters, military personnel and security contractors for a couple of decades now, and they produce good kit. I have been wearing the Helikon-Tex Classic Army fleece for nearly 5 months and I think I’ve got a good angle on it now – it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damned good.
The Helikon-Tex Classic Army Fleece jacket has been updated with the addition of a windblocker membrane which offers some protection against light rain and general dampness whilst maintaining insulation and some breathability.
Function and storage seem to be the two key characteristics of this fleece. There are 6 pockets (5 external, 1 internal and scattered across the front and the arms) all sealed by sturdy YKK zips, underarm ventilation and hook/loop-adjustable cuffs. There’s also a very thin hood rolled up into the adjustable collar, and reinforced panels on the elbows and across the shoulders.
The manufacturer specs promise a membrane breathability of 8000g/m2/24h – which in real terms puts it at the ‘general outdoor use’ end of the scale for breathability.
It isn’t the most flattering cut, but then my body isn’t the most flattering shape… I had to go for the XXL on chest size alone. This left it quite baggy at the waist and with arms that were slightly too long – but to be honest that didn’t bother me once I was wearing it as the everything adjusted in the right places.
There is some subtle outer branding, an a more obvious one on the inside.
There are two colour variations I believe – black/olive and black/black.
Putting it to use in the field
I have been using this jacket all winter in the mountains and forests – and it pretty much does what you expect.
It’s rugged – the panels on the elbows and shoulders do help protect the fleece fabric from pilling and abrasion (rucksack and shoulder harness straps show little sign of wear on it, and I’ve spent some time lying on my belly on rocks etc with no ill-effects). The general stitch and fabric quality is fine, although I haven’t tried washing/reproofing it.
The pockets mostly fall where you want them to – the hip ones are a good size (big enough for gloved hands) and the outer chest one is big enough for a modern smartphone. There’s also a small divider in the outer chest pocket directly beneath a protected port for running earphone/earpiece cables through.
Another pocket on the inside of the chest is a little bigger, probably about right for an A5 notepad or folded map.
The left arm has two zipped pockets that I didn’t really use – I’m not a huge fan of pockets on arms as they are fiddly to use and I prefer to keep my arms unencumbered, but they’re a good size for small, flat objects like ID cards or similar.
The arm cuffs are simple but functional, and they pass the all-important test of being usable when wearing gloves.I haven’t really used the stashed hood, apart from to look at it when the jacket first arrived, and for the photos! It’s attached, basic but secure. It’s not the most stylish addition, but if you had nothing else and the heavens opened then I would be glad I had it.
The overall waterproofing/windproofing balance seems to be right. Anyone who reads my reviews on clothing will know that I run ‘hot’, so if I don’t notice any build up of moisture in the jacket then it’s a good sign for that moisture-vapour transfer rate. The underarm vents do get used quite often, and I only notice they’re open when a gust of wind blows directly onto my side. Otherwise it’s as windproof as one would want an outdoor jacket to be, and it has stood up to Welsh and Scottish drizzle without any argument.
It’s heavy – 1,110g for my (XXL) review sample. I have chosen it as my main layer for short trips, wearing in and around vehicles and basecamps, but I have mostly left it at home for long mountain trips. It’s also built for someone with a slightly different bodyshape/ratio to me – XXL was baggy on the waist but just right on the chest and shoulder.
The Helikon-Tex Classic Army fleece is absolutely perfect for short (4-6hr) trips with a medium-weight rucksack in rough terrain and dense undergrowth where the weather is changeable. It’s not a fast-and-light mountaineering layer, nor a dedicated hard-shell waterproof, but it holds that middle ground and does a simple job well without making a fuss.
This review sample was supplied by Military 1st. You can read our policy on gear reviews here.
Helikon-Tex Classic Army Fleece (membrane version) Specifications:
- 3-layer breathable fabric
- Breathable: 5000g/m²/24h
- Full-front YKK zipper
- High collar
- Concealed hood
- 2 side pockets
- Chest pocket
- Sleeve pocket
- Reinforced elbows and upper chest
- Velcro cuffs
- Ventilated sleeves with underarm pit zipper
- Drawstring waistband with cord lock
- Material: 100% Polyester
- Manufacturer: Helikon