– Text and photos by Grant Grieve.
I have for some time now been a big fan of the PenCott camouflage patterns, and if you were to ask any of my friends or comrades they would tell you that I never shut up about its virtues. For me it is the first family of camouflage I have come across that ticks all of the boxes in terms of design, disruptive qualities and of course the all-important looks. I do of course have other camouflage but I think for me I have found a family of camouflage patterns that suits my environment and gives me the advantages I am looking for – and that is what is important to me.
I have also spent some time and money, sourcing PenCott gear and clothing from manufacturers around the world. This review will be of a long-awaited new addition to my ever growing PenCott collection, the Leo Köhler (www.leokoehler.com ) Tactical Combat Jacket in PenCott-GreenZone™.
I sourced my jacket from the guys at ASMC in Germany (www.asmc.de) – for the simple reasons that I had dealt with them before, and they were one of the very few in Europe who had such a garment in stock. If you combine that with the fact that the product was well described and the website is also in English, then it was a no brainer. Leo Köhler products are all built to German Armed Forces standards and if you have any experience of German military surplus you will know what I am talking about. Everything is well built, is well designed and makes perfect sense when out in the field.
So I placed my order, and waited. It only took a few short days and the jacket arrived. I experienced that all too familiar feeling of excitement at receiving a new piece of gear that any “gear head” does and proceeded to get stuck in to understanding what I had got for my €179.99, plus postage of €15.00.
I have to say that I was not disappointed. The jacket is superb in construction and is made from 50% nylon and 50% cotton with a splash of Cordura on the areas where wear will be an issue. The jacket weighs around 1,400 grammes, which is not heavy at all but does feel solid. I must state at this point that this jacket is by no means waterproof and makes no claims to be so. I have given mine a “shower proofing” treatment solution that should help keep light showers from soaking me. I would suggest that if this jacket did get wet that it would become a lot heavier and retain water due to the amount of material and the number of pockets.
It’s clear that great thought has gone into the putting together of this style of jacket. Köhler calls it the “Tactical Combat Jacket” but I would class this as a Sniper or Recce Smock rather than a combat shirt or jacket. It feels robust and quality craftsmanship is visible in the construction. The stitching is excellent and the distribution of pockets makes this a really utilitarian piece of clothing.
The hood is constructed with a flexible wire frame so you can shape it to your own requirements. The collar connected to the hood is high enough to keep out the cold and wind, whilst allowing plenty of peripheral vision whilst wearing a shemagh or a boonie or cap. It also has a draw cord to close the hood in if things get really wild and I need to hide my delicate Celtic complexion from the elements. On the back of the hood is a Velcro roll fastener for rolling the hood up when not needed. Once the hood is up it feels secure and protective at the same time. The wire frame gives the opportunity to be aware of your surroundings without having to adjust it every two minutes.
The main body of the jacket has a two way zipper and a button-fastened wind flap. The quality of all the zippers is first class and all feel robust. There are four main large front pockets with internal D-Rings and button closures for carrying whatever you need when out in the field. The button closures are a bit awkward if you have gloves on but that is a minor complaint. There are then a series of smaller pockets around the lower part of the body, both front and back, with a large three button “poachers” pouch in the centre of the back of the jacket that can be used for storing spent magazines. It also has a mid-body drawstring that is adjustable from inside the jacket to bring the middle closer to the body and then further below at the bottom hem there is another draw cord to either shorten the jacket or bring it closer to the hips.
There are two zipped “Napoleon” pockets on the front of the main body that can be used for your hands or documentation, and a zippered “reach-through” pocket for getting inside the internal pockets of the jacket if needs be whilst not using the main zipper. Köhler have also added ventilation zips under the arms to help cool you down if you feel the need – this is an excellent addition and a feature I would expect from a high-end jacket. Inside the jacket there are two pockets at the rear which I would see being useful for carrying rolled waterproof gear, spare maps, or E&E kit. There are also two internal chest pockets that are zipper fastened and again have plenty of space.
I have often found that the sleeves on any military specification clothing are kind of an afterthought and there has been no consideration for the comfort or size of the wearer’s arms. This is not the case with this jacket. There is plenty of room even if you have biceps like Arnie. The small pockets on the arms just below the shoulder are easily accessible, but I will say that if you are wearing gloves the button fasteners can be a little awkward.
On the elbow there is a Cordura material with inserts for elbow pads that come with the jacket. This for me is a well thought out feature as I tend to spend a lot of my outdoor time crawling around and clothing tends to get wrecked fairly quickly if the areas of stress and constant contact are not sufficiently reinforced. As we move down to the wrist there is a Velcro fastener to loosen or tighten the sleeve cuff. I always wear a fairly bulky watch and therefore the adjustment makes this more comfortable and easier to accommodate.
Overall, I am very happy and impressed with the jacket in terms of quality, value and construction. Leo Koehler has built a strong and durable jacket that should last anyone a good few years for the money that you will pay. The functionality of the jacket makes it multi-purpose with plenty of load-bearing capacity due to the capacious pockets and general set up.
I have worn this jacket with a UW Gear Swamp Fox AR Rig and it is absolutely fine. However, using a chest rig with the jacket does restrict the amount of stuff you can usefully carry in the chest pockets. On the other hand, because of the great load-carrying capacity of the jacket, you could even use the jacket on its own and leave the chest rig at home.
I also tested the jacket on a night when the temperature was just 3 degrees C, wearing just a t-shirt underneath. For about the first hour or two I was fine and warm when I was moving around; however, when I lay in one position for any length of time it became clear that I would need to have layers underneath to supplement my body heat retention. I would expect that most people used to the outdoors would understand the benefits of layering in any case. My suggestion to Leo Koehler would be to have a zip-in liner that can be easily attached in the same way that I have with many of my mountain jackets from the likes of North Face or Mammut.
If I were to rate this jacket on a scale of 1-10, I would give it an 8. All in all, it’s very well designed and very well made. The only real downside for me was the buttons on the pockets. I found them time-consuming and awkward to use and would have preferred Velcro or zippers, especially if I was carrying my mags in the pockets and needed to access them quickly. On the other hand, the buttons are definitely quieter than Velcro – so it comes down to personal preference in the end I guess.
Thanks to Alan Elmes @ Sharpshooter Photography (www.sharpshooterphotography.net )
Thanks to Damian Dobbyn @ Red Barn Airsoft for the use of his site (www.redbarnairsoft.com )