The fleece has been the main garment of choice to help stay warm whilst in the chilly outdoors. Although not meant to be an outer wear garment due to not being commonly known for being waterproof, a fleece can sometimes be worn as a coat instead of being worn under a coat.
The Patriot Fleece is technically a jacket and a heavy fleece. Designed to be the outer most layer to cover the body, this fleece has been developed to protect the body from the cold and wet elements as a single layer. One could say that this fleece is an all in one solution to a fleece for all seasons.
The Patriot Fleece is made of 100% Polyester and weighs 1.1 kg unladen. The fleece has 6 pockets with high insulation inserts and an adjustable hood. The fleece is adjustable based on size for the collar, cuffs and bottom of the fleece.
Starting from the hood of the fleece, made of the same material as the rest of the fleece. The hood encapsulates the entire head with a front cap to avoid any rainwater from falling on the face whilst being worn. The hood keeps the head warm and has the ability to keep the wearer dry from heavy rain, however it does retain water on the outside of the hood, adding weight.
The opening of the hood is elastic adjustable with the use of fasteners on either side of the front neck. This makes the hood adjustable to any head size the user may have and keeps the wearer snug due to the range of adjustments available. Be aware that it is not necessary to adjust the neckline of the fleece for a good fit of the hood, however it does help if you want the hood to fit snugly around the head when worn.
The main zipper is a two way YKK zipper which extends to an added wind flap and chin guard. The chin guard allows for the hood to close around the face even further during much harsher weather situations. The two way zipper allows for the fleece to be zipped in either location and air the fleece in many different ways without fully opening it.
The hood of the fleece is knitted to naturally fold behind the head of the user without leaving a bulky profile around the fleece like many other hoods do. This keeps the profile of the fleece slim without creating bulk where the user isn’t using the hood.
Both shoulders of the fleece contain a Velcro patching for identification and a zipped pocket for documents and loose items. The pockets are small enough to be streamlined with the arms but large enough to store documents as large as a passport or folded map.
Underneath the armpits, there are ventilation zippers which lead into the fleece for airing of the fleece without having the prior need to take the garment off. This also allows for access to other items underneath the fleece such as chest rig pouches and/or shoulder holsters.
The main pockets on the chest area of the fleece are large and lined with a smooth lining that keeps the pockets slim when not laden with items. There are two small lined insert pockets with wiring eyelet and d-ring in each of the main pockets.
Only available on the right arm, the wrist contains another small zipped pocket which allows for small devices and documents to be stored within quick reach of the left hand. Leading back up the arm, the elbows are also reinforced against resting on hard surfaces and harsh elements.
Both wrists also contain adjustable cuffs with the use of a velcro fastener, allowing for the user to keep their sleeves contained from any heat from inside the fleece from escaping. The cuffs are also a secure way of keeping gloves secured on the hand in harsh environments.
The back of the fleece houses a back channel pocket with zipper access on either side. The pocket is lined with the same material as the main pockets which keep it slim when no items are inside. The lining of the bottom of the fleece are also elastically adjustable using fasteners found at the hips.
If you are not a fan of the colour grey, don’t worry as the Heavy Fleece is available in many different colours and licensed camouflage patterns. The discolouration of the fleece is not prominent after many through washes which means that the quality of the dyes in the garment is excellent compared to cheaper brands. It is worth noting that this was tested with the grey fleece and not with other patterns.
The fleece looks very comfortable and has a very soft and fleece like throughout with a soft “sheep skin” style finish. One interesting factor of the fleece is that even though the garment material isn’t overly thick or bulky, it does look like you are wearing more than you actually are due to the trim design of the coat.
The overall fleece is very comfortable albeit quite thick which can lead to creating bulk if worn underneath a larger coat and/or other equipment such as a chest rig or plate carrier. In these instances it seems best to wear this equipment under the fleece with both zippers attached at the top.
It is worth noting that the fleece is very warm compared to most alternatives due to the thickness of material and reinforcement around the front zippers. It is unfortunate that the other ventilation zips where not given the same treatment as they are exposed to the potential skin that isn’t covered by a base layer. This is not a large issue where external elements are concerned as there is no leakage into the zips due to placement of those zips.
So, how good is the fleece when it rains? If you are planning to use the fleece where you don’t expect rain but want to be ready, then this fleece is suitable, however it is no hard shell jacket. The fleece is water resistant and will keep you dry on the inside, however you will sweat and the fleece will get heavy as it retains water quite badly. This is by far the biggest disadvantage of this fleece that may or may not have been worthy turning into a feature with either DWR treatment or using other clothing technology to resolve.
We have already mentioned the issue with water retention, but a good thing is that even if the fleece has gone through a day of mud and sweat, a quick wash will bring the garment back to good condition. The zips have also not failed after many months of application which is to be expected of YKK zippers.
There is nothing much to be said about the Helikon Tex Patriot Fleece as we’ve been unable to do cause any normal wear and tear to the garment. We have been able to burn it with an open flame and cut the material on purpose, however these tests are not realistic for the intended purpose of the clothes.
As of this review, the Helikon Tex Patriot Fleece costs under £100~ which is a low average cost for fleeces used for mid-layer clothing application. The addition of its use as a casual outer layer does give it a substantial bonus over other fleeces, however this would only be a huge advantage if the water resistance didn’t lead to added weight and discomfort with breathability.
Good alternatives such as the cheaper The North Face fleece at £30~ or the more expensive and exclusive Patagonia half zip fleeces at £110~. In the end it’s all about weight, quality and purpose. The patriot fleece is designed to be a hybrid of both fleece and jacket with some disadvantages.
The fleece is very suitable for most weathers and can be kept on the person without having to store when the weather gets warmer. There is issue were water is involved, although the fleece can keep the wearer dry in the heaviest of storms. The fleece’s outer skin is very absorbent of water and can retain almost double it’s own weight in rain water which causes the weight of the fleece to exceed 2 kg. This is only an issue if the fleece does not get time to dry and evaporate the water it contains.
This issue is the only major disadvantage of the heavy fleece in design and function. Having said this, the patriot fleece is a great fleece which tries to do more than it needs to and does an OK job at it. It is worth thinking about what you want from a fleece before purchasing, however the Helikon Tex Patriot Fleece is definitely a mid layer worth considering for dry and cold climates.