I am always pleased to be able to review products and kit from European manufactures and this was certainly the case with the Helikon-Tex ECW Level7 Gen3 Jacket in Coyote Brown supplied by Military1st. This was my first hands on exposure to the Helikon brand although I know a number of friends who roll with their gear. I have been using this jacket for the past two months as both an everyday jacket as well as active in the field (yes, some of you may find that strange) with some rather ‘heated’ results.
ECW stands for ‘Extreme Cold Weather’ and there are seven levels to address a broad climate range from -40°F to +60°F with Level 1 being warm and level 7 being very, very cold. Now as you get colder you would be required to increase your undergarments to provide a suitable & protective layering system to withstand the extreme cold.
Being based in Scotland and with it being the winter months we all thought I would be in an ideal situation to review the strengths of this jacket under those very cold climatic conditions. Sadly we have had no snow, no deep frost and no arctic blizzards. The past two months the average temperature has been around ‘4 degrees C or 39.2 degrees F’ a long way off where this jackets level of protection is ideally suited to perform; However a couple things to take into consideration
1) It’s starting to get colder here with the temperatures now dropping down to 2 degrees Centigrade.
2) What is the point of reading a review for kit when you are in the storm; you need to have it beforehand so you are prepared!
3) And finally, this entire review is based on the fact that at not one point did I require anything more than a T-shirt (in some cases that was too much) regardless of the wind, rain or temperature. So if I do not mention any layers then don’t be confused.
Specifications & Details:
The first thing I did when getting this jacket was give it a through once over looking at the stitching especially around the zippers, Velcro loop, hood, pockets (inside & out), arms, cuffs and the shock cord eyelets. You can normally see if corners have been cut through poor manufacturing or inferior hardware and I could see none.
The jacket has two large external pockets both utilising YKK zippers and fleece lined. Both pockets have some extra features such as elasticated D-rings to secure items as well as a smaller pocket ideal for a mobile phone. You also have the hood drawstrings (shock cord) located inside these pockets ideal for making adjustments without exposing your hands.
There is only one inner zipped pocket located on the left hand side and has ample storage for its size, again using YKK zippers.
The two interior mesh bellow pockets placed both on the left and the right have a good carry weight without dropping below the baseline of the jacket.
The hood is well concealed in the collar with a two way zipper and Helikon-Tex embossed pull tabs making it very easy to access with gloves and ‘no-tugging’ is required, the movement is very smooth. It has plenty of space should you be wearing a ‘lid’ and is adjustable once deployed via the two external chest pockets. The inner lining is made of a very soft and comforting fleece.
I do like the use of the ‘cord locks’ of which you have three to allow the user the best possible fit for both protection and comfort once the hood is deployed.
The bottom of the jacket again utilises some solid hardware cord locks both left and right. All the eyelets throughout the jacket are metal. I normally prefer fabric but with the constant use of ‘shock cord’ and other factors I can understand why they have gone this route.
The Velcro panels used on both the Left & right arms are of a good size allowing standard morale patches to be placed and are well stitched with no fraying or ripping of the ‘rip-stop’ fabric after daily use. The same in respect of the stitching applies to the Velcro cuffs and I do like the use of a small amount of elastic to provide a more closed and secure fit, mitigating loss of heat, exposure to the elements and allowing debris to enter.
The shell fabric is made up of 100% Nylon Ripstop and is both durable and hard wearing, the internal insulation is 100% Polyster Climashield Apex and DuPond Teflon fabric protector and Climashield Apex provides the padding material.
The overall presentation of the jacket is sharp. The use of Coyote Brown hardware throughout and the use of CB shock-cord, combined with the embossed Helikon-Tex logo on key elements certainly provide that polished look. My only observation is the main zipper, not to do with the quality but the size as I would prefer a larger zipper but I have found no fault with the one installed.
Every day wear:
I have used this every day since I was sent it in mid-November 2013 for a number of reasons, some obvious to you the readers but for others, it’s because it’s a great jacket. It’s solid, reliable and well-built and with the solid colours of Coyote Brown, OD and Black it compliments most everyday attire. I have found it to be warm and comfortable regardless of the weather outside and although this is not a ‘wet’ weather jacket it was more than capable of handling the rain & wind we have been experiencing across this country. In most cases just stopping off for light refreshment and allowing it to breath and air was more than enough for it to dry off. At not one point did I feel my t-shirt become damp either through the weather or of my own perspiration. The various materials certainly assist in the wicking of moisture away from the body allowing you to stay dry and active without the need to ‘cool down’ due to the body overheating. If you did need to cool down just simply opening the external chest pockets would allow that relief. After several excursions with the family through the streets of Edinburgh I decided to take this into the field, well I was not hot or uncomfortable doing these every day routines, how hot could I get having some rural fun?
This jacket is designed for the outermost level of protection in your system for use during static operations in extreme cold and dry conditions.
As you can see I had no restriction of movement in my upper body while wearing the jacket and also my plate carrier. I was able to access my kit without any pinching or restrictions as well as use the features of the jacket including securing my hood. They have incorporated a number of features (detailed in specifications) ideal to minimising your exposure to the elements when carrying out these simple tasks.
All I will say is that this jacket will be an outstanding piece of kit for when the temperature dips (what we are experiencing now) or it’s very cold (dropping below the Zero) and I am going prone in my over whites waiting on ‘others’ to appear. This could easily apply to those that find themselves in a position where ‘movement’ is greatly restricted for whatever reason and you need your gear to maximise the heat generated by your body.
This is an outstanding jacket and at a price of less than £150 you cannot go wrong especially when working in cold environments. Although not designed for its protection against the rain, it was more than sufficient and the fact I never needed more than a T-shirt when wearing this jacket at temperatures a few degrees above freezing goes a long way to demonstrate its capability.
Available from Military1st.co.uk in Coyote Brown, Alpha Green and Black here: www.military1st.co.uk/HELIKON+LEVEL+7+JACKET
We want to say thank you to Military1st for providing the jacket for the test and to our review Richard aka FireBase Alpha for the field test.