Review: Helikon Commander Soft Shell Jacket

We’ve had this review up on our Facebook page for a couple of months now, but we thought we’d put it up here too – for those of you who don’t use Facebook.

Review by “Pensive Agent” Kerberos

This review been a long time coming for us at Strike-Hold! Which is a shame because we’ve been ahead of the game on Helikon products for quite a while, but since we are small outfit, and due to equipment and time complications our vantage point sometimes gets over run.

However, time has actually been on our side with this review of the Commander ‘Shark Skin’ Soft Shell in CB. In the time that i have had with this jacket we have been through two of the UK’s worst seasons; Autumn and Winter, which has given me the opportunity to really put this Soft Shell through its paces. Its not only been worn under a Land CIRAS in a number of skirmishes, in varying conditions from light rain to a heavy down pour, but its been worn as a wind breaker/ water resistant layer on a 125CC bike in high winds, traveling at around 70 miles per hour. The results…well its been interesting actually.

But first, the sales pitch, these are the features of the jacket;

  • High density and laminated surface (Shark Skin)
  • Warm fleece inside
  • Waterproof
  • Windproof
  • Breathable: 5000g/m²/24h
  • High collar YKK pull zipper
  • 2 hand warmer pockets
  • 1 hidden pocket at the upper front
  • 1 pocket on each arm with Velcro panel
  • Ventilated sleeves with underarm pit zipper
  • Velcro cuffs
  • Drawstring waistband with cord lock
  • Material: 100% Polyester

Sounds good, no? Well it is rather good at being Windproof, on a cold frosty morning as well, you can stay reasonably snug with this jacket and just a t-shirt on underneath. This is due to the fleece lining, which saves the need for a base layer in most cases. The pockets are great for keeping the hands toasty as well, with enough room for storage of your basics like a phone, wallet and keys as well as your mits. However, the laminated surface that offers this jacket its ‘waterproof’ capabilities are slightly questionable, especially around the seam areas. Even in a light rain the jacket begins to retain water, and the fleece can get damp inside very quickly around the seams and zip areas, which then spreads leaving you feeling very uncomfortable.

Under a rig this tends to happen slightly less, rain isnt the major concern for creating a damp sensation whilst under an armor carrier, but sweat is. There are no wicking properties and the two vents under the arm pits do little to ventilate you during moments of respite. In fact as soon as you stop running, or moving, the cold sweat on fleece really feels awful. Also if your storing any papers in the pockets, watch out, many things came out of those pockets less than intact, also be careful with electronic stuff like GPS or phones.

Velcro squares for the attachment of Unit/ Medical patches

So whilst the jacket is definitely windproof, its waterproof/ resistant qualities are somewhat dubious. I have worn numerous soft-shells from original level five PCU to various clones etc, and i have seen improvements in the items i have purchased, but no design so far has combined all the elements to create the ultimate soft-shell yet. Helikon has come close in the Commander, but the fleece element is a double edged sword, whilst offering comfort and warmth in some climate conditions, it fails the wearer dramatically in the wet. For the price though, its still a quality piece of kit for cold, windy days, especially if your lacking in the other base layers.  

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