There was a time, Before Softshells and such where fleece reigned supreme. It’s ability to trap air and it’s warm feel made it a popular choice for those who worked outdoors. It’s still incredibly popular in the civilian world where everyone from warehouse staff to builders will often be seen with a fleece on. There are exceptions, A “Tyneside Fleece” being purely the hair that grows on ones upper body, putting on additional clothing would be seen as an act of betrayal or cowardice.
I first saw the Helikon Patriot in a review, I think it was in either Airsoft Action or Airsoft International… Certainly about 5 years ago, Back when they were regularly turning out noteworthy articles and the advertising wasn’t in the form of a hastily put together “impression” piece or a quasi-scientific section on how “warmtex” is 700% better than polartec…
Purchasing from Military1st during one of their semi regular discount events, I received my fleece in time for the cold winter weather. Upon arriving, I was initially struck at how bulky and heavy the fleece itself was. It was also apparent that despite its modest price tag that this was incredibly well developed and made.
The pattern itself is identical in layout to its soft/storm shell companion, The Trooper Soft Shell. A pair of Chest and Bicep pockets, a single wrist pocket on the left and a poachers pocket on the rear all accessed via durable zippers with pull tabs for ease of use with gloves. The layout is a blatant copy of the TAD Ranger hoodie that was incredibly popular about 10/15 years ago with USSF (And Robin Williams too by the look of it…)
The fleece itself is 390g/m2 double superfine type which warms quickly and is dense enough that it keeps you warm and to a certain extent dry even when it’s drizzling, I opted for Olive Green as at the time it was a colour that suited the games I played in… Woodland and Opfor. It’s also able to be used in more familiar surroundings and in my current job where I can be sat in the retail store or out on deliveries or in the warehouse I often have this sat in the car for those colder days.
Starting with the main pockets, each has a divider which accommodates a mobile phone and pens (or similar). In addition to this there is a d-ring to clip “irreplaceable” items such as house keys, There is also a port for the feeding of comms or headphones cables in each of these pockets.
On the biceps, a velcro panel sits on a zipper pocket large enough for a mobile phone or notepad. On the green Patriot I own it blends well with the fleece material and at first glance it wouldn’t have a tactical look to someone outside the community.
He elbow and forearms are reinforced with a wear resistant material, This at first seems a little odd but it Works well and certainly if wearing this as your primary jacket it stops crap being absorbed into the fleece when low on the ground or prone.
The wrist pocket as a I mentioned in the Trooper review is superfluous to my needs and by placing anything inside it adds an irritating weight to the wrist.
Each zipper also has its own “garage”, This small section of material helps eliminate unwanted movement and noise as well as protecting the zipper and anything such as facial hair that might get caught in it otherwise. Most zippers also have pulltabs, Although on the lesser used pockets it’s probably a good shout to remove them to keep the lines relatively uncluttered.
The cuffs are velcro cinched with a small amount of elastic to aid in a comfortable fit, A worthy choice but given the option i’d usually suggest a simple elastic cuff works as well as anything else… Less is usually more and certainly around the wrist where I need good movement and am often wearing a watch. I also annoying find the large tabs catch on practically anything and I end up with Gandalf’s sleeves whilst I’m shooting.
The collar idea up around the lower face, acting as a turtleneck to a degree. You’ll likely not zip it up all the way too often but it’s comforting to know you can. The hood is sizeable and comfortable, I’ve gotten used to it being there but again, Id have rather not had it as hoods add bulk and weight whilst restricting movement and visablity.
The rear poachers pocket is a novel touch, it was the first item I owned that had such a design. I generally use mine for storing a hat and gloves, Indeed a pair of gloves I’d lost last year turned up in the pocket after digging the hoodie out for the cold weather last month.
The main opening is a dual zipper, Able to be opened from the top or bottom it allows better access to the belt line without needing to open up the whole fleece. It’s not something I use often but when sat in the car it can be a timesaver.
When you’re wearing this out and about there are additional zipper vents under both armpits that can aid in airflow and prevent you from overheating, The work remarkably well but can end up being caught in load bearing gear etc due to them being an un-retained design.
There are also shock-cords on the hemline and hood to keep that warm air in, You don’t appreciate how much difference an elastic hem makes until you have a jacket with a broken cord like my softshell!
Overall it’s another item I’ve used for a number of years without cause for complaint, As a day to day garment it’s stood the test of time. I can’t compare it to a brand new one but the fleece hasn’t gone threadbare like some cheaper fleeces can and it’s made a big difference whilst on down time in a weekend game, I’ll often have this with me and stick it on after going out in the cold. Rarely I’ll use it as a primary jacket over a base layer when I know it’s going to be cold but dry.
Bottom line on this is that overall it’s a good jacket for those cold, dry days but if it’s looking like rain… Either swapping out to a dedicated wet weather jacket or adding a light, breathable storm shell to your inventory will help massively. Looking at Helikon’s current line up there appears to be a newer design that might fit my revised criteria, The Stratus jacket appears to be a similar jacket with a more tailored profile and minus the hood and cuffs I don’t fully get along with. Having said that, I can’t see any reason to justify replacing the Patriot, It’s a good quality and well priced fleece that’s kept me warm and happy over the years, It’s also now available in a lot of additional colours and patterns such as Camogrom (Multicam clone) and MTP.
A final note, Helikon are generous in their sizing, if you get the opportunity to try before you buy, I’d recommend doing so. The Patriot I own is at least a size too big but I’ve kept it as it acts very much like my own personal “woobie”. Military1st are one of the main dealers of Helikon in the UK and having dealt with them semi-regularly over the years I’ve known them to be helpful and efficient in getting things to you, They also hold regular sales events so it’s often a matter of waiting until the item your after has 10% off and hitting that button!